Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Someone is Drinking #$%&!^+ Merlot!
Although the now (in)famous line from the movie Sideways would suggest that Merlot drinkers are pretty close to excrement on the sole of your shoe, that’s not what the consumer numbers say. According to the Wine Institute, a California wine industry organization based in San Francisco, merlot is the top red nation wide in the USA, with 26.7 million cases sold in 2003. Chardonnay remains the leader among white wines with some 52.5 million cases, while white zinfandel is the big mover in the blush wine category, with some 21.2 million cases sold in 2003.

These numbers, (from a report by Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune food and wine reporter published January 26, 2005) note that The top three varietals in the Chicago market, according to ACNielsen, a leading provider of consumer and marketplace information, are, in descending order of sales in 2004: chardonnay at $50.7 million; cabernet sauvignon at $33.5 million and merlot just a bit lower at $32.9 million. These figures cover a 52-week period ending Dec. 18, 2004.

Chicagoans purchased $300 million worth of wine at supermarkets, liquor stores and drugstores in 2004, according to ACNielsen. More domestic table wines were sold than imported ($155 million domestic versus $57 million imported), but imports rose at a rate of 6.5 percent while sales of domestic wines dropped just under 1 percent.

Among imports, Italian wines still "rule" Chicago with $30 million in 2004 sales, ACNielsen reported. Australian wines are coming on strong in second place with $25.8 million in sales, while French wines ranked third at $8 million. Italian sales were flat in 2004, neither up nor down; Australian sales were up 15 percent and French sales down 2.4 percent, according to ACNielsen statistics.

These are significant numbers because Chicago is the third largest market in the USA (8.1 million cases of wine in 2003), behind LA (13.8 million cases) and New York (10.9 million cases). Interesting numbers in themselves, I would have bet New York would have been the big gulper. But I guess the thirst is greater in LALA land.

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