Wine Growth Decelerates in 2018

Dear Client:

In 2018, total wine sales were up 2.1% and volumes were down 0.2% in all Nielsen-measured channels, slightly down from 2017’s 2.4% increase in sales and 0.8% increase in volumes.

Digging further into 2018 wine trends….   

DOMESTIC V. IMPORTS. Imports continued the trend of outpacing domestics in 2018. Import wine sales were up nearly 3% and volumes were up 0.8%, while domestic wine sales were up 1.8% and volumes were down 0.5%.

Imports from New Zealand, France and Portugal showed the most growth for the year by sales and volumes. New Zealand wine sales were up 8.7%, volumes up 8.1%; France sales were up nearly 7% and volumes up 7.6%; and Portugal sales were up 5.7% and volumes up nearly 5%.

Meanwhile South Africa and Argentina were the biggest losers on the import front, with South Africa sales down 9.3% and volumes down 9.5%, and Argentina sales were down nearly 8% and volumes were down 9.3% for the year.

Oregon was a bright spot among domestics, with sales and volumes up 13.5% in 2018.

BY VARIETAL. Pink wines reported the most growth in 2018, though still off of a relatively small base compared to red and white wines. Sales of pink wines were up 12.8% for the year with volumes up 4.1%. Red wine sales were up 1.1% and volumes were down 1.2%. Similarly, white wine sales eked out 0.2% growth and volumes were down 1%.

Rose blends were by far the fastest growing varietal in 2018, with sales up 42.3% and volumes up nearly 46%. Sauvignon blanc was a distant second, with sales up nearly 6% and volumes up 4.2%.

The majority of varietals ended the year in the red. White zinfandel and malbec dropped the most in 2018, with sales down 7.7% and 7.3%, respectively. Merlot (-5.8%), shiraz (-5.4%) and riesling (-5.2%) also reported lackluster results.

CANS CONTINUE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH. Canned wine bucked the trend of deceleration in 2018, with sales up a whopping 69% and volumes up 47% for the year.

Other alternative packaging also reported strong growth in 2018. Box wine sales were up nearly 5% with volumes up 2.3%, Tetra Pak sales were up 14.2% with volumes up 13.2%.


Kentucky is one step closer to allowing direct-to-consumer wine shipping. On Friday, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow direct out-of-state wine shipments to Kentucky residents in a 29-5 vote, per a local news outlet.

SB 99 would allow Kentucky residents to purchase up to 24 cases of 9-liter bottles per year through shipments. Before passing, the bill was amended to ensure that wineries and consumers wouldn’t be bypassing any taxes on the wine.

The state is one of the last holdouts on DTC wine shipping, along with Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi and Utah.

Now the bill heads to the state House.


DON SEBASTIANI & SONS HIRES SPIRITS MANAGER. Don Sebastian & Sons is “aggressively focusing” on its premium tequila brands by hiring Bonnie Wilson to the newly created role of spirits manager, per a release. In her new role, Bonnie will focus on developing brand strategy and sales behind the company’s spirits portfolio which currently includes Contigo Tequila and El Macho Tequila along with other brands that are currently in the works. “We see a huge opportunity with our spirits portfolio,” says president Donny Sebastiani, adding “And having Bonnie join the team to exclusively focus on this growth initiative for our company is imperative to reach our goals.” Bonnie joins the company from The Marketing Arm and FrontBurner Restaurants and has experience in spirits, craft cocktail and mixology industries.

BALCONES DISTILLING LAUNCHES TEXAS POT STILL BOURBON. Texas-based Balcones Distilling has added Texas Pot Still Bourbon to its core lineup. The bourbon is distilled in their Forsyth pot stills and aged for 24 months in new charred oak barrels and bottled at 92 proof. The mash bill consists of roasted blue corn, Texas wheat, Texas rye and malted barley. Texas Pot Still Bourbon will be available year-round starting in Texas, Florida and California for approximately $30 a 750 ml.

SMWE TO RELEASE PRAYERS OF SINNERS & SAINTS WINE. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is set to release a new Washington wine brand called Prayers of Sinners & Saints. “Everyone has a little good and bad in them and this brand believes that one’s true self lies somewhere between a virtuous good side and an indulgent dark side,” says SMWE senior marketing manager, innovation Maggie Streng. The wines include a glow-in-the-dark label, so that while the labels are different in the light, they reveal the same praying skeleton in the dark. The Prayers of Saints Chardonnay and Prayers of Sinners will be available nationwide starting next month.

CONSTELLATION BRANDS NAMES NEW SVP, DIGITAL AND MEDIA. Constellation Brands has promoted Karena Breslin to svp, digital and media. In her new role, Karena will provide leadership and strategic direction to the company’s media, e-commerce, digital marketing and marketing technology teams, per a release. She joined the company in 2010 as director, digital marketing for wine and spirits and was promoted to vp, digital marketing in 2013. She will report directly to evp and cmo Jim Sabia.

Until tomorrow,


“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt   

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