Posted on | May 26, 2011
Written by | Ian Griffith
In the early 1980′s Walmart famously introduced barcode scanners in their stores to speed up the checkout process. Back then only 45% of their most successful products carried UPC codes. After successful tests with this new technology, Walmart leveraged their market clout to require all their distributors and suppliers to supply UPC codes with their products. Before long everyone who touched the Walmart ecosystem including their competitors had adopted UPC codes and we entered an era when the strategic use of data could become a competitive advantage.
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
The Beverage Network sat down with Matt Aeppli of Pernod Ricard USA, to talk about category management, the increasing importance of convenience packaging and how the spirits industry can better communicate with consumers.
The Beverage Network: Pernod Ricard invests heavily in bartender education and promoting mixology culture. What’s the return on your investment?
Matt Aeppli: Cocktail culture is as dynamic as it has ever been, and it opens new doors for every tier in our industry as the largest driver of innovation. Our Bar Smarts program, which gives bartenders the basics on mixing, cocktails and serving, offers real added value for the trade—so far we’ve had over 2,000 graduates. We’ve taken it a step further with Pioneers of Mixology for our Bar Smarts graduates who want to continue to the next level. The key aspect to these efforts—and a big reason they get so much respect in the trade, is that they aren’t about our brands or our company. We are perceived as a leader in bartender education and that’s where we get the value.
ON THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
TBN: How can suppliers better equip retailers to enhance their consumers’ shopping experiences?
MA: We can do so much more as suppliers to provide a more premium experience for consumers and shoppers. When you compare our industry to other consumer goods industries, we are behind, but that is starting to change. A lot of suppliers (including us) are developing more engaging strategies for our brands that will enliven the store environment, such as our new Malibu activation with flop flops that puts consumers in the mood of that brand, while making it fun to shop. Category management is about bringing solutions to retailers that aren’t simply self-serving to a supplier’s own brands.
TBN: What about better shelf management?
MA: This is another area of opportunity for our industry. When I put myself in the average consumer’s shoes, it is challenging to orient yourself in many stores. There are so many different products, what do you choose? There’s still a lot of opportunity for retailers to optimize shelf management. Shopper insight suggests that better shelf management can help consumers better navigate the stores and get the product they want.
TBN: Why has Pernod Ricard refocused its marketing efforts on- and off-premise around occasion marketing?
MA: Consumers shop by occasion, then they choose brands. What is the occasion and who am I with? Am I home on a weeknight with my partner? Are friends coming over for a casual evening? Or is it a connoisseur situation where I am trying to impress someone? We as suppliers could suggest ways for retailers to design their stores according to occasions, which would dynamically change the shopping experience. We encourage on-premise licensees to follow this best practice as well.
TBN: How have you seen the vodka category impacted by the economy?
MA: Every fourth drink is a vodka drink and the category is currently growing 5 to 6%. It’s not the fastest growing category, but it has the largest incremental volume increases because of its size. While there was some trading down and intense price competition during the height of the recession, the premium segment has rebounded nicely in recent months, as it always does after economic downturns. We’ve also noticed some momentum in the on-premise. Both of these developments are good news for Absolut, which has returned to growth. We continued to invest strongly in the brand over the past few years, and history shows that well-supported premium brands emerge stronger after recessions. Also, even as the premium segment comes back, the value segment continues to do well. For example, our Fris Vodka is growing fantastically, as we continue to roll out more distribution.
TBN: How can retailers apply savvier category management to their vast array of vodka offerings?
MA: There is unbelievable innovation in this category, hundreds of flavors and dozens of vodkas launch each year—so category management is incredibly important. I think many retailers are overwhelmed and lack an effective category management strategy, and I believe it’s the suppliers’ responsibility to provide it. It’s our job to bring perspective and insight on consumer behavior, not to just randomly offer different products and flavors to stack on shelves. Who is the shopper I’m targeting? How do I speak to them? These are the sort of questions we need to be asking ourselves.
TBN: Speaking of target consumers, who does Absolut speak to?
MA: Absolut is so large it touches almost every consumer, but our target core consumer is the up-and-coming professional who is already successful, interested in trying new things and staying on top of trends. In the old days, we would go with pure demographic segmentation—men between 25 to 35, for example—but today we are looking for psychographic segmentation, trying to understand consumers and shoppers’ habits and attitudes. The vodka category has segmented so much. Absolut has established itself as the leader of the premium segment, which is where consumers go when they want quality that always delivers. Our current communication strategy for the brand is all about cocktails.
ON OTHER OPPORTUNITIES
TBN: Jameson is driving phenomenal growth in the Irish whiskey category. How are you positioning this brand?
MA: Jameson has carved out its own category, similar to what Patrón has done by transcending the Tequila category. We call it the third way of whisky: it’s not an American whisky which can sometimes have a rugged or entry-level image, but it doesn’t have the rules or formality of Scotch. Jameson is serious, but approachable and smooth, and the most recommended whisky by bartenders. Ideally, I like to see retailers position it exactly between Jack Daniel’s and Johnnie Walker.
TBN: What about Scotch?
MA: The Glenlivet, the leading single malt in the U.S., maintained steady growth during the recession, and now is growing at an accelerating rate. We also have enjoyed significant growth on Chivas 18, which has been the primary target of our Chivas Regal marketing efforts in recent years, and now are seeing a good recovery for Chivas 12.
TBN: Malibu’s RTD offerings represent a major packaging innovation. How have they been received in the marketplace?
MA: The success of Malibu RTDs for the first three months after release—it was the fastest-growing new product according to Nielsen—is driven largely by its convenience packaging. It is not just a premium mixed cocktail, but a convenience solution which is why consumers and retailers have been so interested in it. It’s such a natural territory for the brand, with its summertime, outdoor usage occasions. We will start to see more innovation in the convenience packaging realm I believe.
TBN: How will Malibu Black be positioned in the market?
MA: It’s a higher-proof, less sweet rum which we believe will create new possibilities for the franchise, get Malibu used in even more cocktails and open up the brand to even more evening occasions. Currently, Malibu is more about daytime and pre-dinner consumption.
TBN: What is the communication goal behind Kahlúa’s new campaign, Delicioso?
MA: We learned from our research that a lot of people didn’t know what Kahlúa is—they thought it was cream-based, or had chocolate in it, or was from Hawaii because of the name. We concluded we needed to bring the brand back home and let our consumers know it’s a premium coffee and rum liqueur from Veracruz, Mexico. We also wanted to open it up for different cocktails and increase its versatility to many more occasions.
TBN: Plymouth has become one of the most exciting brands in the gin category. How do you explain its success?
MA: Plymouth was the original dry martini. It’s an old brand, but it’s a young brand in the U.S. and its growth is on-premise driven. The bartender community has truly embraced it. Connoisseurs also appreciate its great history and authenticity, and its production-made in Plymouth with batch distillation in copper stills.
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Kristen Wolfe Bieler
Most French wine-producing regions are seeing a steady decrease in the amount of wine shipped to American shores. Provence—where imports to the U.S. jumped 50% last year—is a startling exception: Exports from the region were a whopping 10 times greater than that of total French wine. As this trend shows no sign of slowing, the future for Provence’s wine industry looks as sunny as the region’s Mediterranean coastline.
There is a single reason behind Provence’s ascent to the fastest-growing imported French region: rosé. Americans’ sudden and seemingly insatiable thirst for dry pink wine (rosé sales grew at five times the rate of total table wine in 2010) has placed Provence in a position of strong growth for the last six years (which is as long as Nielsen has been measuring dry rosé consumption).
U.S. retail sales of imported rosé priced at or above $12 a bottle grew by 22.3% on dollars and 17.7% on volume in 2010 according to Nielsen. Provence has benefitted the most, emerging as the preferred region for dry rosé. After all, Provence is the birthplace of dry rosé wine and remains the world’s leading rosé region—rosé accounts for 87% of all AOC wines produced within its borders. The trade seems to understand and appreciate this: One survey found that the U.S. wine industry perceives “French rosé as the highest quality rosé, and rosé from Provence as the gold standard.”
Spreading Like a Virus
According to Paul Chevalier, national fine wine director at Shaw-Ross International Importers, which represents Provence’s Château d’Esclans, rosé growth is directly tied to exposure to French culture: “I started seeing people drink rosé in New York City and the Hamptons about 10 years ago—this was the same clientele who had discovered it firsthand in the Côte d’Azur.” The trend spread outwards from there, taking off in very specific markets like Florida and Nantucket. “There is more rosé consumed in Nantucket than all of Massachusetts,” says Chevalier. He sees the rosé demographic skewing slightly younger—many older consumers still associate pink wine with Lancers, Mateus and White Zinfandel.
“Global drinking habits have rubbed off,” says Julie Peterson, VP, American World Services, U.S. strategy office for Wines of Provence. “Rosé consumption is coming primarily from those who have traveled to Europe. We are not trying to move the sweet pink wine drinker to dry rosé—it is really a different market.”
Although they may not be inversely correlated, rosé’s growth comes as sweet pink wine is on the decline. Rosé—which is required to have less than four grams of sugar per liter, compared to White Zinfandel’s average of 20 grams per liter—is more food-friendly, something Americans are starting to increasingly care about, believes François Millo, director of CIVP/Provence Wine Council: “The American consumer’s rising appreciation for dry rosé is a direct result of the change in Americans’ palates and rise of the food culture.”
While it doesn’t hurt that celebrities such as Uma Thurman and Jay-Z have been photographed sipping rosé on yachts, the most influential rosé advocates have been sommeliers. “Because rosés from Provence are so versatile, the gatekeepers have an appreciation for them, and have helped develop a real cachet for the category on-premise,” explains Marcy Whitman, senior VP, marketing for Palm Bay International, which represents rosés from Jean-Luc Colombo and Mas de la Dame.
Where Rosé is King
“It’s just different when you set out to make rosé,” says Chevalier. “Many regions make sparkling wine, but if you want a true Champagne, you look to Champagne. If you want a real rosé, you look to Provence.” This is because in Provence, rosé is the focus, not an afterthought or a by-product of red wine production (many producers make rosé with the saignée method, bleeding off free-run juice from red wines, which results in more concentrated reds).
“Winemakers in Provence aren’t saying ‘Oh, we have a lot of extra Cabernet, let’s make some rosé,’ explains Peterson. “Here, it’s all about creating rosé—it’s the first priority.” And it isn’t easy: the balance of fresh fruit and light color is difficult to achieve and getting just the right amount of skin contact as well as avoiding oxidation are all challenges—not to mention, AOC guidelines are incredibly strict.
John O’Neill, director, Jeff Welburn Selections and N7 Imports, has become something of a Provence rosé specialist in recent years, and believes Provence’s palette of grapes is what sets the region’s wines apart from those made elsewhere: “It’s all about the blend: If your Grenache is too flabby in an unusually hot year, you can tone it with a little more Cinsault. If you need more color or body, you can play with the percentage of Syrah or Mourvèdre. The great thing about Grenache-based rosés is that you get fruity characteristics without the need for residual sugar.”
Welburn’s California distribution company, Angeles Wine Agency, has been a leader in sales of Provence rosé in California for the past decade, but this year “our business has exploded,” reports O’Neill. “Just five years ago, most sales were restricted to restaurants and top retail wine merchants, but today supermarket chains like Cost Plus, Whole Foods, Vons and Gelsen’s have gotten into the dry rosé business.” O’Neill adds his company will sell 4,000 cases of Provence rosé in the state of California alone. Now that the company has expanded nationwide, most of his rosés were on allocation
Hitting the Pricing Sweet Spot
Interestingly, rosé growth is occuring in the premium segment—over $12 a bottle—and in spite of the fact that the average price per 750ml bottle was up 52 cents over the prior year. But there is a serious price ceiling for these wines, as they are largely regarded as casual summer sippers. Peterson notes that the vast majority retail under $20, and most importers and retailers affirm the sweet spot is mid-teens.
The weakened dollar has pushed prices up, but in O’Neill’s experience “most wholesalers and retail wine merchants don’t believe rosé should cost more than $14.99 on the shelf.” That said, a handful of his are priced higher, and they still sell out. And, of course, there are the category standouts which command far greater prices, like Domaine Tempier and Domaine Ott and the relative newcomer, Château d’Esclans.
In its fifth vintage since the dynamic Sacha Lichine purchased the property with the goal of crafting ultra-premium rosé, d’Esclans has generated a fair amount of buzz for the fact that its upper tiers are aged in oak, and released a vintage behind most rosés (as well as being quite expensive; the Les Clans cuvée is $60 a bottle). Fermented with Burgundian yeasts, they are mineral-laden and high in acidity—tasting them blind, many would guess white Burgundy, even though they are made with Grenache. “The role of the sommelier in selling these wines is crucial,” says Chevalier. “Why would anyone spend so much money on a rosé unless someone knowledgeable is there to explain how it was made, why it is special and why it has the ability to age that other rosés don’t?” The brand’s entry-level Whispering Angel rosé (unoaked and unaged) is $19.99.
A Sweet, Yet Short Season
So powerful is the association between rosé consumption and warm weather, sales plummet on September 1st. Philippe Marchal, French portfolio manager for Kobrand Corporation, which represents Chateau D’Aqueria Tavel, believes 90% of rosé sales occur between May and September which is why it’s crucial to “hit the market by April 15th at the latest—after September 1st your wine will end up as close-outs.”
Peterson sees this changing, however: “We are starting to see the rosé season gradually extend each year, starting as early as April 1st, and more frequently going until Thanksgiving.” Chevalier has witnessed the same thing, and observes that in warm places like Miami and L.A., rosé consumption is quickly becoming a year-round phenomenon.
As a nation, we’re still in the early stages of “a general marketplace understanding of dry rosé,” Peterson reminds. Outside the five major rosé-consuming states—NY, IL, FL, CA and MA—sales drop off dramatically, so there’s still a way to go. There are currently only about 70 producers in Provence who are currently exporting to the U.S., but many more are seeking importers. Peterson explains, “When we interviewed retailers, they all reported selling out last year—many quoted numbers above 35% growth. Now that rosé season has started, we’re seeing retailers take big positions on Provence rosé so we’re very optimistic.”
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Alia Akkam
At Empellon, one of the newest Mexican restaurants to open in New York City, Mathew Resler whips up mezcal cocktails that incorporate Serrano chilies, chia seeds and chamomile, exotic ingredients used in the kitchen. Across the river in Queens, at popular Astoria cantina, Pachanga Patterson, locals sip small glasses of mezcal, whether Del Maguey, Ilegal or Los Nahuales, to accompany their short rib tacos. In downtown Los Angeles, Las Perlas, brainchild of nightlife guru Cedd Moses, buzzes as a mezcal shrine, while Rosa Mexicano, the upscale Mexican empire with New York roots—it has now expanded to 10 different restaurants on the east coast and L.A. —has a new cocktail menu, designed by bartenders Alex Day and David Kaplan, featuring two mezcal cocktails.
Almost two years ago, the last time Beverage Media checked in on mezcal’s growth, the category was just gaining traction thanks to the presence of NYC bars like Mayahuel stocked with primarily Tequilas and mezcals. The arrival of boutique brands such as Sombra—from Richard Betts, Charles Bieler and Dennis Scholl—and Amy Hardy and Arik Torren’s Fidencio also infused the category with new life. Of course, the continued efforts of mezcal’s most enthusiastic ambassador, Del Maguey’s Ron Cooper, helped shed the little-known spirit’s unfair reputation.
In just that short time, the mezcal landscape has changed. The agave spirit primarily made in Oaxaca, often confused with its long-distant cousin Tequila (for example, all Tequilas are mezcals, but not the flipside; mezcal can be made with agave from numerous plants while Tequila only from Blue Weber; agave for mezcal is roasted, but steamed for Tequila) has managed to strike out on its own, captivating consumers not only with a range of pure, nuanced flavors—although an alluring smokiness is the dominant characteristic—but as a reflection of Mexico’s rich cultural heritage.
IN THE KNOW
Guillermo Olguin and Ignacio Carballido first launched Los Amantes in 2003, an era when Americans still wrongfully perceived true mezcal as a worm-studded novelty creation sipped during spring break. Even in Mexico’s urban centers, like Mexico City, Carballido says it wasn’t mezcal locals sought out, but Tequila and whiskey. Now, he notes, that stigma has slowly been eradicated. “People are drinking mezcal. They understand it’s not something for a wild and crazy night, but to savor like bourbon.”
This perspective was certainly fueled by Olguin and Carballido’s decision to open Casa Mezcal last year, a sprawling mezcal emporium on New York’s Lower East Side that emphasizes Mexican food, music and art, too, so customers can be fully immersed in Mexican culture. While the bar serves as an ideal place to sample Los Amantes, Carballido points out Casa Mezcal’s most important mission is to promote a greater awareness of the category. “Of course we have a brand of our own,” he explains, “but we wanted to be open to other brands so mezcal could be recognized and people would pay attention to the spirit. It’s great for the Mexican economy.”
BURYING THE WORM
As the arrival of small-batch mezcals like Pierde Almas and el Buho (when this one debuts in New York and New Jersey in June, it’s designed to be sipped or incorporated in high-end cocktails) begin to resonate with bartenders in much the same way, say, handcrafted gins and whiskies do, mezcal is poised to raise its profile.
“There is a hunger among consumers and particularly liquor stores and bartenders to try all the new mezcals coming onto the market,” notes Cooper, founder and president of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals, who for well over a decade has been championing the spirit. “Our growth over 16 years has been really shallow up until 2008. Then, in 2008 we grew 50%, in 2009 17% and in 2010, 100%. The growth of Del Maguey in 2008 was radical; mezcal hit the tipping point.”
Early mezcal supporters like Aspen restaurateur Jimmy Yeager and AKA Wine Geek’s Steve Olson helped alert tastemakers to the quality of single village mezcals, and eventually, says Cooper, the “mass got big enough, and people wanted to know more.”
Cooper remembers when just a mere mention of mezcal elicited talk of worms: “That was an old marketing gimmick prior to the 1950s, and now, after 10 years it’s not the first question people ask.”
According to Cooper, what is also helping propel mezcal along is its exposure to a first generation of consumers: “They never had a crappy mezcal experience, so when they get introduced to this really fine spirit that’s full of flavor, it’s like a smoky single malt.”
If it wasn’t for global brand ambassador Stephen Myers’ proactive efforts, Ilegal, the mezcal brand that was hatched in founder John Rexer’s Guatemalan café, may not be one of the category’s breakout brands. “Fortunately for us, and through our extensive experience and travel through Oaxaca, we were able to create a great mezcal that was able to rectify the image of poor quality mezcal, and build our own at the same time,” shares Myers. “There are very few categories remaining in the liquor market that have the potential to expand to a significant size and I believe mezcal is one of them. The production methods used in creating mezcal, and combined with the ability to use many different agaves, means that the breadth of flavor profiles available within the category has allowed mezcal to be a flexible liquor that can be paired with the entire spectrum of the spirits available in today’s market.”
Resler, who runs Empellon’s bar program, thinks a renewed interest in cocktails has helped mezcal make some much-deserved headway into the mainstream. “I give much credit to the Tequila boom of a few years back. People are often finicky, so when they get ‘bored’ with Tequila they are willing to branch out and try something new.”
One of the mezcals he likes using for its diversity is Scorpion. “I can use the silver for most mixed cocktails where I want to showcase the smoky agave and raw nature of mezcal; I tend to use the reposado if I want to give the cocktail a bit more depth and backbone. I recently made a cocktail using the Scorpion five-year añejo, Carpano Antica, lemon juice and Pacharan liqueur.
Miguel Aranda, a mezcal-loving bartender who works at Yerba Buena, Apotheke and Theater Bar in NYC, discovered the spirit years ago, but it wasn’t until a recent trip to Oaxaca that his passion deepened. Now he makes innovative cocktails like “The Mayan” with Fidencio, Royal Combier and corn elixir at Yerba Buena, and the “Rite of Passion” at Apotheke that incorporates fresh pineapple chunks cooked with chipotle and pink peppercorn into a mezcal-orange base. “Fidencio works well in my cocktails because it has the perfect balance on smokiness and character; the most important thing is the relationship between the spirit and the ingredients,” he notes.
In Denver, Sean Kenyon of Blue Collar Cocktails is another mezcal fan who reaches for brands like Sombra. Its distinct smoky profile, he points out, may not work for every libation, but its complexity allows him to build creative cocktails around the spirit.
Even at Rosa Mexicano, where Tequila reigns supreme, the importance of serving mezcal is clear. “While we have served mezcal for many years, guests rarely ordered it because it was not very well known. When given the choice, Tequila has always been ‘safer,’ explains Jason Berry, VP of operations. Still, with the addition of two Del Maguey Vida cocktails, “El Mezcalito” (Tanteo jalapeno-infused Tequila, fresh lemon, organic agave, muddled fresh strawberry) and “Flor de Humo,” (silver Tequila, St-Germain, orange marmalade and fresh lime), Rosa Mexicano has created a way for guests to “dip their toe into the wonders of mezcal without making a full shot-sized commitment. For a high-volume environment like ours we are able to tell very quickly if the mezcal cocktails will be popular, and so far the response has been tremendously positive. Mezcal cocktails quickly convert a curious drinker into a mezcal fan.”
Connections with established importers have helped take mezcal brands to new levels as Sombra’s inclusion in the Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits portfolio, Ilegal’s alignment with Frederick Wildman & Sons, Los Amantes’ with Palm Bay International and Del Maguey’s recent acquisition by Gemini Spirits & Wine attests. New products, including Del Maguey’s made-for-cocktails Vida, Scorpion’s silver and extra añejo Tobala featuring estate-grown wild agave and Fidencio’s refined Clásico joven and limited-edition Pachuga, triple-distilled with quince, pineapple, apple, guava and banana, reveal the promise of new flavor and cocktail concoctions.
All this development has Carballido thinking that mezcal is finally gaining the respect it deserves. “At first it was hard for Americans to accept Tequila, so they needed the salt and lime gimmick; with mezcal they are just experiencing it, and realizing it’s more in the category of Scotch.”
Cooper thinks authenticity across the board means the mezcal category will be neither saturated nor a mere flash-in-the pan trend: “But there will be a place in the market for a lot more, and what that will do is bring more consciousness.”
Myers also thinks the category will grow on a global level: “That said it will be a slow and controlled development because the companies are small and very involved in keeping the traditions and practices of mezcal production alive.”
A celebration of dynamic heritage, combined with the power to morph into modern iterations, may be exactly what ensures mezcal is timeless on the back bar.
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Jeffery Lindenmuth
Even the most widely planted grapes of the Loire Valley—Melon de Bourgogne and Chenin Blanc among whites, Cabernet Franc for reds—have only a vaguely familiar ring for most Americans. Next come the truly obscure, like Folle-Blanche and Romorantin, Pineau d’Aunis and Grolleau. Sauvignon Blanc is probably the Loire’s most recognized variety, however it accounts for only 22% of white grapes. The eclectic nature of the Loire Valley, with over a dozen grapes contributing to red, white, rosé and sparkling, ranging from dry to sweet spreading across 65 appellations, is precisely why you should consider adding these wines to your wine list. With so many incomparable offerings, the Loire Valley is often able to fill a niche that no other wine region can do.
According to the Loire Valley Wine Bureau, wines of the Loire Valley are the most popular wines in French restaurants, where about 26% of production is consumed. Another 20% remain for export, however, and savvy sommeliers are finding that U.S. restaurants might be an equally fertile market.
The Ultimate Seafood Wine
Like many seafood restaurants, Boston’s Island Creek Oyster Bar is a natural fit for the Loire Valley, the region’s mineral-driven whites a perfect complement to the local Island Creek Oysters that are the restaurant’s namesake. “From a white wine context, Muscadet, Vouvray and Sancerre all have good name recognition, but the food is the primary reason for including these wines,” says Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, general manager and acting wine director.
There is no Loire Valley section on the one-sheet wine list at Island Creek Oyster Bar, with its preponderance of white and sparkling wines. Rather, about 100 wines are organized by flavor profile, whether “Stone, Rocks + Flowers” or “Genuine Luster.” “The idea is that if you took the labels off the bottles, how would the wines present their core values and distinctive flavors?” explains Schlesinger-Guidelli.
True to form for the region, Loire wines are scattered throughout the list. Even wines from the same AOC, like the Chenin Blanc-based whites of Vouvray and Savennières, in particular, appear in multiples sections, testament to the incredible versatility of the Chenin Blanc grape. “Two Vouvrays can be dramatically different. Because of how the Loire River flows, there can be these little pockets of great richness and extraction along the way,” says Schlesinger-Guidelli of the 300-mile stretch of vineyards reaching from central France to the Atlantic Ocean.
Thankfully, one common theme of this diverse region is value. From the largest and most prolific Loire region of Muscadet, producing 600,000 hl of wine annually, Island Creek offers Michel Delhommeau ‘Cuvée Harmonie’ Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2009 to top producer wines like Francois Chidaine ‘Les Argiles’ Vouvray.
Grape vs. Region
According to Cyril R. Frechier, wine director at Campagne Restaurant & Café Campagne in Seattle, the diversity of Loire Valley wines can demand a different approach for introducing each wine. “With Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Quincy, we need only say Sauvignon Blanc, because people can relate to that grape. With Vouvray we go the opposite direction, because the appellation has good recognition, but Chenin Blanc does not. With Gamay, I might refer to a familiar AOC, Beaujolais, as a starting point,” says Frechier of his multi-pronged approach.
After finding some common ground, Frechier makes Loire wines especially appealing to explore by offering many affordable selections by the glass (6 oz.) or taste (3 oz.), such as a Coteaux de la Loire Muscadet les Grandes Vignes 2009 or Domaine de Vaugondy Vouvray Sec 2009 to accompany a few oysters.
By organizing all bottles by grape variety, Frechier does a service to even lesser known Loire Valley AOCs, allowing Pouilly-Fumé to cavort with white Bordeaux, and Jasniéres to tag along with Vouvray. In utilizing red wines of the Loire, Frechier exudes enthusiasm for the region’s Cabernet Franc: “I find Cabernet Franc is very consumer-friendly. It hits all the bells and whistles of a great by-the-glass pour, which means it is drinkable young, with moderate tannins and warm-toned fruit flavors that people really enjoy.”
Beyond White Wine
Both Cabernet Sauvignon, with its similar name and some common flavors, and Pinot Noir, with its medium body and high acidity, are excellent entry avenues to Loire Cabernet Franc for Frechier. “Many people know what color wine they are going to drink when they arrive, but not exactly the wine. So with our almond trout I can steer toward a young Chinon, which works well with all its fresh primary fruit,” says Frechier.
Amanda Reade Sturgeon, wine director at Dovetail on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, echoes the sentiment for Loire reds on restaurant lists. “The Loire is better-known for its whites, but I am just charmed by the dark, earthiness of the reds, like the Cheverny wines from Pinot Noir and Gamay. Because these Loire reds are overlooked you can spend $50 and get a great bottle of wine,” says Sturgeon. Sturgeon is also a fan of the region’s white wines, offering both a basic Domaine de la Tourmaline Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, “Sur Lie” 2009 as well as cult favorite Nicolas Joly Le Clos Sacrés “Savennières” 2007
by the glass.
In introducing a versatile Loire white to your list, Sturgeon suggests looking to Vouvray for its excellent availability, while also issuing some caveats on education. “There is a lot of confusion surrounding Vouvray because of the wide range of sweetness levels. We have a lot of problems with people who do not expect them to be sweet. I now list ‘off-dry’ behind the appropriate Vouvray, which helps, but we still have people who insist it is unexpectedly sweet,” adds Sturgeon, noting that a touch of sweetness makes these wines excellent with dishes that include a degree of tartness, or rich ingredients like foie gras.
If there is a challenge to Loire wines, beyond the region’s refusal to be easily defined, it’s that many producers are small and sourcing wines can be difficult, especially from the smaller AOCs. “There is a lot to choose from in Muscadet, Sancerre and Chinon, but it can be challenging to locate the more unusual wines. I’ve been searching for a white Chinon forever,” says Sturgeon. Frechier appreciates the wines from Loire co-ops like Cave de Saumur, which offer large production and great value, while he looks for discriminating importers including Robert Kacher and Kermit Lynch for the best hand-picked portfolios. Loire Valley wine can appear diverse, both expansive
and elusive, and occasionally surprising—attributes that sommeliers and diners alike are coming to remember as the very reasons they began to love wine in the first place.
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Jack Robertiello
You must have been napping if you’ve missed the recent gin explosion. Many are emerging as a result of the growth of the American craft distiller movement, but the Old World, too, is contributing its share of new iterations to what’s been seen by some as a stodgy old gin mix. To Americans who easily embrace the new, it may seem odd but among aficionados this wave of gins, skewing away from the juniper bite of a London dry style, has caused some consternation. Listen to what one gin maker told me late last year: “Gin has to predominantly have the nose and taste of juniper, yet some of the gins coming on the market at the moment really don’t meet that criteria, and this is quite a concern.”
That’s something you’d expect to hear from makers of a classic gin. But when even Lesley Gracie, one of the distillers of the most successful of the newer gins, Hendrick’s, points out the impact of brands spiked with more citrus, spice and floral flavors, then it’s clear we’ve entered uncharted territory. Hendrick’s, after all, helped pioneer the style of gins in which unusual ingredients (rose and cucumber) surged to the forefront.
Gin purists may not like it very much, but there is definitely a new world of gin on the rise. The impact of the citrusy New Amsterdam, which has quickly broken through to near the top of the American-made chart, shows that consumers are open to embracing new flavor profiles in their gins.
“Over the past two years, the gin category has been impacted by the global economic downturn. However, we believe that gin is well positioned for long-term growth due in part to increasing consumer demand for traditional cocktails,” says Gerard Thoukis, New Amsterdam’s director of marketing. “Modern gins such as New Amsterdam, with its balanced citrus and angelica notes, will continue to fuel growth in the category as consumers and bartenders seek more interesting, flavorful and balanced white spirits.”
Long defined by the potent London dry style, gin today is undergoing a modern makeover stimulated by a variety of factors: attention to the category as an important ingredient in classic cocktails, tinkering by distillers large and small with new recipes and the unabashed American cocktail culture’s interest in broader flavor profiles. But some of these gins, widely dubbed “New Western,” are so low in juniper that it’s hard for a seasoned drinker to think of them as gin at all.
Toby Cecchini, a New York-based bartender and consultant who recently spent an afternoon tasting 35+ gins, notes that the new gins and expressions from familiar brands like Beefeater, that now offer Beefeater 24 and Beefeater Summer and Beefeater Winter seasonal varieties, have significantly broadened the range of forward botanicals, mostly in terms of floral and citrus notes: “The ones that work best, in whatever cocktail you make, need to have structure and balance, and some of the new ones don’t really have that. But those that push the boundaries of what we think of as gin might make very interesting cocktail ingredients.”
Scott Clime, beverage director for D.C. Coast and other Passion Food restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area, echoes Cecchini’s point. “To make a gin martini for someone who has never tried one, these new gins are ideal,” he shares. The softer, low juniper gins are a lot more approachable for new drinkers, and he finds it easier to come up with new drinks with gins without the big juniper bite.
JOINING THE GAME
Two recent high profile gins show that European distillers are just as interested in expanding or at least competing in the gin game. From the family who created Ketel One comes Nolet’s Silver, notably made with raspberries, roses and peaches. Also new is No. 3, produced for Berry Bros. and Rudd in London in very much a classic style but with a touch of grapefruit peel.
In the U.S., brands like Death’s Door from Wisconsin and Bluecoat from Philadelphia have joined California’s Blade, and No. 209 gins, as well as Right from Sweden, as new favorites since many bars are taking them on, if for no other reason, than to differentiate bar programs.
Maybe this change is overdue. It’s been a while since gin has seen major growth: According to numbers released by DISCUS from 2010, gin as a category was down 2.6 % in all price categories except for the super-premium level, which shot up 9.2%. Revenue was up an even higher percentage on the super-premium end, where many of the newer gins are selling.
“NEW WESTERN” COCKTAILS
Among newer gin brands, those like Bulldog, Nolet’s and Farmer’s Organic, executives in charge are upbeat that the wave of interest in all sorts of gin variations will bode well for them.
“Farmer’s Organic Gin made with elderflower and lemongrass, has been successful both on-premise and off-premise because it offers gin drinkers a uniquely delicious taste with wonderful flavors that complement and enhance the juniper,” says Joseph Magliocco, president of Chatham Imports, which includes Farmer’s in its portfolio.
Aware of the impact that mixologists have had on the category, Farmer’s has worked with Alexei Beratis of Town in Boston, Daniel Hyatt of the Alembic in San Francisco and others who “have shown us how to make Farmer’s Gin cocktails in delicious ways we never would have imagined,” Magliocco adds.
Anshuman Vohra, CEO and founder of Bulldog, a London import made with a botanical mix that includes lotus and poppy, says the attention of mixologists is key to any gin’s success: “The creative cocktail movement allows people to be introduced to gin’s versatility and experience it as an alternative to other spirits. In fact, our suggested spring/summer cocktails feature a bevy of ways to spice up the gin & tonic using ingredients such as lemon curd, licorice or lavender—each represents a different botanical infused in Bulldog Gin—which helps expand the consumer’s palate for drinking gin.”
As Vohra notes, there’s still a stigma associated with gin which is taking some time to counter. But the heavy lifting already started in the early part of the decade, when two English brand ambassadors made it their task to rejuvenate the category.
Over the last decade, Pernod Ricard’s Simon Ford and William Grant’s Charlotte Voisey, both built their gin brands (Plymouth and Hendrick’s respectively) through close contact with mixologists via tastings, seminars, competitions and events. In fact, the two of them have revolutionized not just gin marketing, but spirit representation altogether, as many brands now employ full-or part-time spokespeople who work almost exclusively with bartenders.
Ford, who now works for Pernod Ricard on Plymouth, Beefeater and Absolut Vodka as director of trade outreach and brand education, has been hosting an annual gin symposium tour and arranges international bartender exchanges that boost the image of gin not only for the Pernod brands but for the category as a whole. With brand extensions like Beefeater 24—made with green tea and grapefruit—Beefeater Summer and Beefeater Winter, Pernod has been able to cast a modern light on its classic Beefeater brand.
Even rivals praise the work Ford and Voisey have done. Ryan Magarian of Portland, OR-based Aviation Gin, a product of House Spirits, notes that the model Ford used, targeting bartender tastemakers who can build case sales while sharing details of the brand’s history and points of difference, have built the brand to the point that Magarian himself puts a Plymouth drink on every menu he creates.
Likewise, Tanqueray has increased the presence of its three gin brands—the standard bottling, No. 10 and Rangpur—by engaging another UK bartender, Angus Winchester, as global brand ambassador. Last summer, he went on the road to gather more than 200 unique recipe twists on the gin & tonic interacting directly on behalf of the brand with scores of bartenders across the country. “Consumers are looking for cocktails with character, and we’ve always believed that Tanqueray’s rich, complex profile lends perfectly to mixing both classics and new interesting mixes,” says a Tanqueray spokesperson.
The work of the newer gins has increased the pressure on all brands to be active in the field. “The response from our mixology community has been unbelievable,” says Carl Nolet Jr., 11th generation Nolet family member and executive VP of Nolet Spirits U.S.A. “The bartenders/mixologists are extremely crucial to the success of Nolet’s Silver as they serve as the true ambassadors for the brand. It’s their recommendations and unique Nolet’s creations at the bar that help us reach this new generation of drinkers who are looking to experience a modern take on a classic category. By inspiring the bartenders through education and trial, we in turn inspire the consumers.”
The new gins if nothing else are creating a buzz about the category. “I think gin is going to come back as the flavor profiles stand out, and people pick them for the differences,” says Michelle Madigow, co-owner of the bar Licorous in Seattle, which carries more gins (13) than vodkas. “People are going to catch on that these are smaller production products and going to start asking for them as different flavor profiles.”
With customers welcoming the return of gin, especially in strong, stirred cocktails, they’re willing to expand their own notions of what a gin is, she says. That willingness has helped her sell a rotating list of house-infused gins she makes—recently, she included a Meyer lemon-infused Bombay in her infusion flight.
“As far as I’m concerned if you’ve got Beefeater, Plymouth and Tanqueray, they are the classics and there’s no reason to try to get close to them. We wanted a gin that was equally delicious but entirely different than London dry,” says Magarian, highlighting Aviation’s sarsaparilla, anise and lavender notes. While there are rules about juniper levels in London dry gins, new variations, he says, need to be significantly different in order to get traction.
GIN’S NEW CONSUMERS
Newer gins may also be helping attract younger consumers into the fold. Says Clime,“My generation’s exposure to gin wasn’t always a good one, but right now, bartenders are going back to the classics when gin was the spirit of choice and they’re concentrating on the quality of ingredients.” Clime notes that when he and others of the current generation of bartenders started their careers, gin was served two ways: with tonic or in a martini. “We didn’t realize how versatile it could be in cocktails like the Aviation, Martinez and others,” he adds.
Vesatile, and with different flavor profiles, gin has caught on for flight service. At Licorous, a recent flight included Martin Miller’s and the Austrian Monopolowa; at New Heights restaurant’s bar the Gin Joint in Washington, DC manager Amy Smoyer recently offered a flight of three gins connected to Holland—Bols Genever, the Dutch Damrak and New Amsterdam—to follow March’s small-batch American flight, which included Bluecoat from Philadelphia, Smooth Ambler from West Virginia and Ethereal from Massachusetts. Smoyer stocks 40 or so gins on her menu now, with notes highlighting the dominant botanicals in each: Bombay Sapphire is noted for angelica and cassia bark notes, Old Raj for saffron and orange peel and New Amsterdam for blood orange, blueberry and juniper.
Other gins have a different emphasis. For Aviation, makers looked to craft a gin reminiscent of Pacific Northwestern flavors, and Magarian suggested rich, savory, spicy and damp as the keynotes. Others tend to emphasize such spices as coriander and cardamom or floral notes like rose and honeysuckle.
To bolster her bar’s gin connection, Smoyer also carries five high-end commercial tonics and makes three of her own to serve with the gins: one made with grapefruit, another with orange flower water and lime and a third with cardamom, allspice and other baking spices. It’s that sort of sophisticated approach to an old-fashioned beverage that is helping bring gin back into a younger drinker’s portfolio. “It’s fun to teach people about the history of gin; introduce it and bring out some of its less likely components that people didn’t know they liked,” she says. “My favorite thing about the Gin Joint is changing people from gin haters to gin drinkers.”
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Alia Akkam
Last year, funky boutique hotel Crescent San Francisco opened in Union Square, adding another bar to the city’s already dynamic mixology landscape. However, The Burritt Room stands out for bar manager Kevin Diedrich’s cocktails and quality entertainment to boot. With a pedigree spanning PDT and Clover Club in New York City, Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C. and the Ritz-Carlton, Bourbon & Branch and Clock Bar in San Francisco, Diedrich brings creativity and operational know-how to his drinks.
The Beverage Network: You’ve experienced the bar landscape from both the east and west coasts now. Have you seen differences among the cocktail movements in say, New York and San Francisco?
Kevin Diedrich: Nowadays there are so many traveling bartenders, there’s not going to be much of a difference in techniques—only available ingredients.We have bountiful fresh amazing citrus that enhances the cocktails. Our guests are all foodies and have advanced palates, so when strawberries are out of season they know there won’t be much flavor if they are used in a drink.
TBN: What else are your guests drinking?
KD: Day to day and week to week it differs, but a lot of people come for a cocktail experience. In general, more women and younger people are drinking Manhattans and Sazeracs. Four or five years ago you had to introduce them to something on the sweeter side to get them in the bar, and now they are coming in and calling for whiskey. Recently, two ladies drank Manhattans while a gentleman in his 30s ordered a Woo Woo. Some of the trends are reversed now.
TBN: You have a lot of interesting cocktails on the menu that are rooted in the classics but have modern appeal, like the “Japanese Drowsy Girl.”
KD: For the “Japanese Drowsy Girl” I combined elements of two classic cocktails. The Japanese cocktail has brandy, orgeat, Créme de Cacao and bitters; The Drowsy Girl has cacao and brandy. So I put them together by cutting down the orgeat and adding egg white for silkiness.
TBN: As the weather warms up what will you be adding to the menu?
KD: A lot of bright drinks. I’m starting to look at sours and swizzles; I love daiquiri-style cocktails and Rhum Agricole. One cocktail, with shiso, Rhum Agricole and Yellow Chartreuse, is minty and herbaceous.
TBN: While The Burritt Room celebrates the craft cocktail, the fact you have frequent live entertainment also means you’re dealing with two types of crowds.
KD: Live jazz on Thursdays and different bands makes the bar what it is. It’s a great space in the back, and I just want everyone to come and enjoy what they are drinking. A lot of the cocktail dates are on Sundays through Thursdays, when guests come in and order cocktails off the menu and punch bowls.
TBN: Punch bowls are making waves?
KD: Sometimes groups will gather and get two or three. At just $48 a pop for four to six guests, everyone has a drink in hand. Sometimes it’s hard to do punch bowls in volume when you’re two or three deep, but people expect it at a serious bar.
TBN: How did working for someone as legendary as restaurateur Michael Mina impact you at the bar?
KD: The operation side is very streamlined and the training is very intense. I learned a lot of kitchen techniques there from making syrups to gums, and brought them to the bar.
TBN: First there was the Fernet Branca craze sweeping San Francisco, and now it seems pisco has acquired cult status in the city. Are you seeing more pisco on menus?
KD: Definitely. I was at a fundraiser recently and instead of guests asking for vodka sodas, they wanted Pisco Sours. Right now it’s a drinking environment where people are ordering Corpse Revivers and asking what kind of unaged whiskey is available, and pisco fits right in.
Posted on | May 1, 2011
Written by | Roger Morris
For the first time the U.S. is becoming the largest consumer of wine.
How did we do that?
This ascendancy to Numero Uno status among wine-consuming countries would have been surprising even a decade ago when France and Italy were far ahead in total gallonage. But in recent years, it became evident that America’s growing thirst for wine would eventually outstrip those two countries’ emerging sobriety.
According to a study recently released by the Vinexpo organization charting 114 wine-consuming countries, the U.S. is already the world’s largest retail market (which excludes restaurant sales) of what it calls “still light” or table wines as well as the largest total consumer of wines priced higher than $10. And the collective price tag for U.S. purchases is already first—we buy more-expensive stuff—with the British second.
This does not mean that Americans are individually the biggest wine drinkers, as we only rank 15th in per-capita consumption, a category the French, Italians and Swiss dominate. The average adult American drinks only about 16 bottles of wine annually.
Surprisingly, while the increase in worldwide consumption of wine slowed, it did not decrease during the continuing global financial crisis. Sales for 2007 and 2008 were essentially flat, and there was a tiny increase in 2009. “The world is drinking more, and the world is drinking better when it comes to wine,” concludes Vinexpo CEO Robert Beynat.
The study, which also includes production figures from the top 28 winegrowing countries, compared actual results from the five-year period 2005-2009 with projections for the next five years.
HOW DID THE U.S. GET TO #1?
WE ASKED THE EXPERTS
Boomers grew up as global sophisticates.
“My generation traveled more extensively than our parents,” says baby boomer and wine guru Robert Parker, inventor of the 100-point rating scale and owner of The Wine Advocate. “Everyone was going to Europe in the late ‘60s and ‘70s and taking their junior years abroad. So we became exposed to European and Latin wine-drinking cultures.” Gladys Horiuchi, communications manager of The Wine Institute, adds, “In the 1960s, baby boomers started drinking table wines instead of the dessert or sweeter wines their parents were drinking.”
Foodie and wine cultures became sympatico.
Boomers grew up with Julia Child on the kitchen TV and with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse leading the dining reformation. “In general, Americans paid closer attention to what they were eating,” says Chris Adams, co-owner and CEO of New York-based wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann. “We learned the pleasures of food and wine pairings.” Parker adds, “The culinary revolution was a catalyst for the wine revolution.”
Wineries popped up in every market.
“Whenever you have strong local producers, like in the U.S., imports rise as well,” says Vinexpo’s Beynat, pointing out that 27.8% of American drinking in 2010 was imported wine. This may seem counterintuitive, but the rise in Starbucks franchises didn’t drive out independent coffee houses. China’s growth as a winegrower is cited as a positive sign by those who want to sell wine there. The growth of regional wineries has allowed people to get their palates wet on the local stuff first, thus making wine less of an elitist beverage.
We drank to our health.
“When the French paradox studies came out with the health benefits, the stigma of drinking wine disappeared,” Horiuchi says. “Over the last several years, what has helped feed the growth in wine sales has been the health benefits,” adds Mark Wessels, manager at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, D.C. “Even doctors are saying it’s okay to drink and to drink more, especially red wine.”
Popular culture validated wine drinking.
Movies such as Sideways and Bottle Shock glamorized wine the way cocktails had been glamorized a generation before. The Judgment of Paris in 1976 became a matter of national pride because even the French experts preferred American wine, with Robert Mondavi attaining folk hero status. “Since share of mind translates to share of market, the exposure to wine in movies, magazines, television and social media has helped,” says Fred Franzia, head of Bronco Wine and creator of world-famous Two Buck Chuck.
While quality has gone up, prices remained low.
“American wine consumption is being driven in a large part by the quality and value of the wines that are being produced, and in these times value remains quite important,” Franzia says. “Despite the economy, we’ve had 17 straight years of increased consumption.”
We’ve been dazzled by choices.
“When I started in 1978, there were very few choices,” Parker observes. “You couldn’t find an Australian wine, not even Grange. One of the best wines in the world, Vega Sicilia, wasn’t available in the U.S. No one sold wine by the glass.” Today, the global wine gates have been opened, in large part by a group that barely existed in the 1970s—restaurant sommeliers—whose wine by-the-glass programs have introduced us to wines from “new” regions and “new” grape varieties. Andrea Englisis, co-owner of Athenee Imports, makes this point: “Originally, the majority of our sales were ethnic, in Greek neighborhoods and in ethnic restaurants. Then in the early 2000s, sommeliers started becoming more adventuresome, and now you can find Greek wines in many restaurants.”
The ratings game gave us a buying strategy.
“Regardless of what you think of wine ratings, they do make things simple,” retailer Wessels says regarding the popularity of Parker and Wine Spectator rankings. “Some people who come into a store with hundreds of bottles of wine are over-whelmed and tempted to turn around and walk out. But wine ratings give them something to work with.”
Sampling has driven sales.
“Wines by the glass gave the opportunity to try something new without buying a whole bottle as you once did,” Horiuchi says. The Riedel phenomenon of big, wine-friendly glasses made also drinking classy.
Status always counted.
“As professionals became more successful, they started buying luxury goods, including wine and wine collections,” says Stephen Rowland, a regional manager for Pasternak Imports. “It was a way to show status, and the people they associated with were also trying to show their status.”
The Internet became information central.
Every producer we talked with mentioned how easy it is to get information about their wines to consumers via electronic media—and for customers to check them out. Social networking programs are now a part of every marketing plan. And is there a winemaker on any continent who doesn’t tweet from green harvest through malolactic?
As Americans drank more, Europeans drank less.
Part of the American ascendancy to #1 has been our growth, but part is also due to the Italians and French falling back.
Wine became the feel-good drink.
“When you drink wine at dinner with friends, you have a measured mellowness that is enjoyable,” Parker advocates.
A WINE PERSPECTIVE
But before we start singing “We Are the Champions” to the Europeans, we should put our wine-consumption gains into perspective. For example, Karl Storchmann, New York University economist and managing editor of Journal of Wine Economics, downplays the touted rate of growth of U.S. wine consumption in the past decade. “People always stress the incredible increase in the wine market over the last few years,” Storchmann says. “That seems a fairytale to me.”
Using real 2010 dollars, Storchman shows the greatest growths in total retail wine sales took place decades ago in the 1960 and ‘70s.
“The growth in wine consumption,” he argues, “appears to be linked to economic growth.”
Nevertheless, retail spending for wine in real dollars in the past 50 years jumped from $5.56 billion in 1960 to $27 billion in 2010—a fivefold increase. Thus, we are spending five times as much on wine today than drinkers were in 1960. And everyone—especially foreign producers —sees room for continued growth in the American market, although no one predicts a return to that heady growth of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
For example, while Prosecco consumption in America has more than doubled in the last five years, Giancarlo Vettorello, director of the classic Prosecco consortium, points out that only about 3% of his region’s 61 million bottles end up on this side of the Atlantic. “We have a lot of room to grow in the U.S.,”
“There’s been a big increase in port tawnies in the U.S, particularly in restaurants,” says Adrian Bridge, director of the Fladgate Partnership, and he sees restaurant sales as continuing to be big driver.
Martina Rothe Obregon, chief marketing officer of the Freixenet Group, adds, “We believe that the Spanish wine segment is still underrepresented in the U.S. and will continue to invest and lead development here. Because of its size and growth potential, the industry will be focusing on the U.S. and how to attract and bond new consumers entering into the category.”
Then there are the Millennials, the 70 to 80 million social networking consumers aged 21 to 33 who are the fastest growing market segment, and one which is taking over as the Baby Boomers drift off into retirement.
Pasternak’s Rowland says he approaches the over-30 and the under-30 customers quite differently. “Younger people are much more interested than their elders in sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines,” Rowland says. “For them sustainability is a great selling point. They also get their information from the Internet and they have a confidence that middle age people do not. They are not intimidated and are generally more difficult to sell.”
“Ratings are less important than they once were,” adds Adams of Sherry-Lehmann, which has a strong Internet presence and supports Millennial programs, “and younger people are more interested in hearing the story of the wine.”
Finally, Fred Franzia, while believing that the American market will continue to grow, adds a word of caution: “I would not like to be in the over $20 per bottle part of the wine business. The U.S. is going to be the #1 wine market in the world soon, but I don’t think that the rising tide of wine will lift all boats.”