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Welcome to the 86th edition of The Look Back. This week we’re looking at the state of the U.S. wine market, the long-term evolution of RTDs, and more.

Last week’s most popular link was: Beverage Alcohol Defies CPG Trends​ (IRI).

- Josh, VinePair co-founder

#1 - The Brands & Price Tiers Making Gains In U.S. Wine

The Headline: “Impact Databank: U.S. Table Wine Market Remains Sluggish, But Above $15 Brands Thrive”
The Source: Shanken News Daily (possible paywall)
What You Need To Know:
While the overall industry has been sluggish the past few years—in part due to competition from spirits, particularly Tequila, whiskies, and especially low-proof RTDs—table wine brands priced above $15 a 750-ml. have been bucking the trend, and these premium labels rose at near double-digit rates again in 2021.

New Zealand’s Kim Crawford from Constellation Brands is the largest-selling table wine by volume in this higher price tier, while second overall is California’s Meiomi, also from Constellation. Both registered double-digit gains last year, as did such labels as La Crema, Decoy by Duckhorn, and Bread & Butter
—according to 247-page Impact report, released last month.

Below a million cases in the above-$15 sector, strong performances were posted in 2021 by California labels Justin Vineyards, Sonoma-Cutrer, and Daou Vineyards, as well as by Italy’s Santa Margherita and France’s Chateau d’Esclans.

One tier below at between $10 and $15 a 750-ml., results were mixed last year among California table wines, but solid gains were registered by Josh Cellars and Kendall-Jackson. In 2021, Josh became one of the wine market’s five largest labels overall in dollar terms, according to the Shanken report, even though it was not among the top 10 by volume. Kendall-Jackson’s Vintners Reserve remains the market’s largest-selling Chardonnay, as it has for the past 30 years. Among all wines in 2021, Italy’s Stella Rosa was the fastest-growing label priced above $10 a 750-ml. Last year, Stella Rosa became the market’s largest-selling import, surpassing Australia’s Yellow Tail, which had held that spot since 2003.

And here’s a helpful chart to summarize things:

Our Take: I don’t have anything to add here, other than to once again point out how impressive the rise of Stella Rosa has been. Here’s some interesting background on the brand, also from Shanken News Daily, from back in May:

Italy continues to command about a 37% volume share and 34% value share of the overall imported wine category in the U.S., and imported wine market leader Stella Rosa, part of Riboli Family Wines, was responsible for nearly 27% of Italy’s U.S. volume total in 2021. Stella Rosa’s extensive lineup of semi-sweet and semi-sparkling wines grew 26% last year to nearly 7.3 million cases, according to Impact Databank, overtaking Yellow Tail as the largest imported wine brand. Between 2015-2020, Stella Rosa averaged an annual growth rate of over 41%, expanding by more than 1 million cases a year, and its pace shows no sign of slowing.

“We’re not a two or three SKU brand at retail, we’re like a 10 SKU brand,” says Steve Riboli, third-generation owner of Riboli Family Wines. “We have lots of neat flavors that are similar like Blueberry and Peach but are 300,000 to 500,000 cases each.”

Stella Black is the company’s leading SKU and accounts for 25% of its SKU mix, and Moscato D’Asti is the second-largest offering.
While the company has been busy with recent launches like Organic Orange Fusion and a Non-Alcoholic range, more new innovations are on the horizon.

This year, Stella Rosa will launch a new higher-end, barrel-aged sparkling Prosecco and a dry rosé made from Pinot Noir, as well as a line of flavored brandies that will complement the flavored wine range as the brand’s first foray into spirits. 

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The Headline: “After July’s “Bloodbath,” What Wholesalers See for the Back Half”
The Source: Beer Business Daily (paywall)
What You Need To Know:

Among back half drivers and challenges, wholesalers seemed split on how price increases will play out, but were more aligned on seltzer softness (one called it caught in a “death spiral”) and staunch  competition from spirits RTDs.

Among the “pricing bad” camp:

“The main headwinds we are facing is the PINC on October 1,” said one. “We have been notified by most of our suppliers that they will be going up $1.20-$1.80 a case. The consumer will trade down with this one.  Seltzers continue their death spiral and canned cocktails are doing well but not making up the volume or profit loss of seltzers.”

Said another: “Forthcoming price increases are concerning and will place further pressure on the elasticity of beer pricing. Inflation is definitely a factor too, especially in the on-premise with the recent price escalation across the food, beer, and drink menus. The seltzer decline moderated in July but still down significantly YTD. Premium light business is holding its own but I do not see the pick-up from seltzer that everyone seems to be pointing toward.”

#3 - One Good (Overlooked* RTD Evolution) Chart

Via The Brewers Association
*Overlooked by me last month

#4 - One Good (Retail Craft Beer) Tweet

Via @BryanDRoth

Bonus Reads:

  • Japan's Asahi considering full-scale push into North America beer market -CEO (Reuters)
  • Cocktail culture is driving the evolution of the spirit-based RTD segment in the US (IWSR)
  • US breweries are for sale—but who’s buying? (BrewsNews)
  • Inc. Magazine Names Athletic Brewing the 26th Fastest Growing Company in the United States (VinePair)
  • Drizly Announces 'Sip With Purpose' Initiative, Including A $4 Million Media Commitment And New Accelerator Program To Support Brands Owned By Members Of Historically Underrepresented Groups (Press Release)
  • Shipping Shift — With Legislation Stalled, Niche Breweries File Lawsuit to Push for DTC Beer Delivery (Good Beer Hunting)
And that’s a wrap. We hope you found this newsletter informative and useful. Whether you did or didn’t, we’d love to know why at

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