retailer with 19 locations, and which
carries more than three dozen Pinot
Grigio and Pinot Gris SKUs. “People
are willing to pay more for Chardonnay
than they are going to pay for Sauvi-
gnon Blanc, and they are willing to pay
more for Sauvignon Blanc than they
are for Pinot Grigio. Fair or not, that’s
the way it has always been.” He likes to
refer to Pinot Grigio as “the stereotypi-
cal patio pounder.”
In this, it is a safe wine—safe for
consumers, who are still mostly women
35 and older and who feel comfortable
with its simple style; safe for retailers,
who know exactly how much they will
sell every year, regardless of anything
else going on in the market; and safe for
restaurateurs, who can sell an $8 or $10
glass that may cost them $4 a bottle.
But that safety has bred its own
problems, including tremendous price
resistance, says Patel. “I do try to upsell,
but there are only a couple of brands
that people are willing to try. They are
really focused on that $10 range,” he
explained. In addition, it’s difficult to
cross-sell customers to similar wines in
other categories. Freeze at 21
ment recommends French Picpoul and
Muscadet, while Patel likes Spanish
Verdejo. But it’s a hard sell, given how
much Pinot Grigio drinkers love their
Pinot Grigio.
Trade-Up Opportunities
So what can be done to lift Pinot Gri-
gio out of that safety zone? Glazer’s
Alfonso Cevola says that the topic is
not a new one, and the category has
remained pretty much the same for 20
years despite constant discussion. On
the one hand, there has always been
a talk about higher-end Pinot Grigio,
but no real significant movement to-
ward taking market share away from
Santa Margherita. On the other, he
says, every year seems to bring new pro-
ducers who are willing to undercut on
price to build share, as well as others
who are willing to sweeten the wines
to make them even more demographi-
cally friendly. Plus, the category has
seen its share of what Cevola calls silly
label marketing in order to differentiate
wines that aren’t all that different.
Yet, perhaps, there are signs of
change. There is a growing market
for Pinot Grigio that costs more than
$10, particularly in bigger cities like
New York, Chicago and Philadelphia,
says Guiseppe Locascio, the director of
brand management for Winebow’s Ital-
ian wine portfolio.
“This is a more sophisticated con-
sumer who is trading up,” says Locascio.
“On- and off-premise can use the Pinot
Grigio category to sell something differ-
ent because their customers are already
familiar with Pinot Grigio. They were
drinking entry level Pinot Grigios, but
they’re willing to spend more for what
they perceive as different quality in
the bottle.” Notable examples in the
Winebow portfolio include the single
vineyard Unterebner Pinot Grigio from
Tramin and Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio
Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT.
At the restaurant Fountainhead in
Chicago, proprietor Aaron Zacharias
has forced diners’ hands, so to speak,
by featuring a stepped-up Pinot Grigio
from Alto Adige, as opposed to a gener-
ic, cost-driven choice. “Alois Lageder
is a big producer but we find that they
offer value and that their wines still of-
fer some character from the grape, says
Zacharias. “It’s our second best-selling
More adventurous Pinot Grigio
drinkers are younger than the typical
35-or-older-woman demographic—
and even include more men.
Winebow’s selection of Pinot Grigio offers a range of price
points; they believe sophisticated consumers, especially in
bigger cities, are ready and willing to trade up.
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