As part of our year-long California wine supplement, we’ve looked at how each region in the Golden State creates, markets and sells wine. But how is California wine perceived across the country? Is the state a category in itself, or is it grouped with other U.S. wines when compared to international offerings?
The Beverage Information Group (BIG), which is owned by Cheers’ parent company Specialty Information Media, conducted a study in March to answer those questions and more. BIG performs quarterly retail audits through its Shelftrac product, which provides brand-level distribution, shelf placement and pricing information within 25 metropolitan markets. More than 1,500 outlets comprised of grocery, drug and liquor retailers (both chain and independent) were surveyed during the study.
The section of the audit concerning California wines asked the following questions: Does the outlet visually separate its wine selections by region? If the answer was no, the survey stopped for that store. If the answer was yes, the audit asked: Is one of those regions California? Again, if the answer was no, the survey stopped. If the answer was yes (as it was in more than 31% of the stores surveyed), the auditor determined the following:
-How many facings (visible rows of bottles) are in the California section?
-How many red wine facings are in the California section?
-How many white wine facings are in the California section?
Finally, the survey listed 10 California wine brands, and determined whether they were stocked in the California wine section of each store (if the brand was found elsewhere in the store it wasn’t counted).
Nearly 50% of retailers surveyed nationally separated wine into regions. Liquor stores (58.6%) were most likely to use this organizational method, while food (37.8%) and drug (19.8%) retailers were less inclined to identify wines by their origin. Of those outlets that separated by region, 63.5% included a California section. In this case, there was less of a difference by outlet type: liquor (69.8%), drug (68.8%) and food (40.5%).
For stores with a stocked California wine section, the average number of facings was 119.2, ranging from 129 for liquor stores to 55 for drug stores. There were an average of 52.6 red facings and 45.5 white facings in these outlets. The proportion of reds to whites was consistent throughout the three store types.
Nationally, Woodbridge (87.%) was the brand most often found in stores’ California wine sections out of the 10 selected for this study. Bota Box (30.3%) was least often found in those sections. The remaining eight brands and their national distribution were: Beringer (86.2%), Sutter Home (85.3%), Barefoot (84.1%), Kendall-Jackson (78.3%), Carlo Rossi (58.7%), SkinnyGirl (56.9%), Rodney Strong (56.3%) and J. Lohr (52.3%).
The study also looked at data by market in each of 25 metro areas. The research showed five markets that stood out for having a high percentage of both stores with regional displays and stores with California wine sections: New York City, Tampa, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Boston. See the charts above for more detailed information about these market numbers.
The markets most likely to treat California wine as a distinct region were those furthest from the West Coast. In California markets, Los Angeles only separated wine into regions in 16.8% of stores; San Diego in 37.1%; and San Francisco/Oakland in 35.7%. Though it should be noted those three markets (as well as Phoenix) stocked the 10 brands listed in the survey far more often than other cities.
Whether wines are separated by varietal, origin, price or combination of those and other criteria says a lot about a store or restaurant’s objectives and clientele. If divided by country of origin, this study shows California deserves consideration for a separate section.
NATIONAL NUMBERS BY STORE TYPE
Percent of stores with regional displays
• Food: 37.8%
• Liquor: 58.6%
• Drug: 19.8%
Of those, percent with California displays
• Food: 40.5%
• Liquor: 69.8%
• Drug: 68.8%
Average number of California facings
• Food: 65
• Liqour: 129
• Drug: 54.9
NATIONAL DISPLAY OF CALIFORNIA WINES
Regional displays: 49.7%
• California displays: 63.5% (31.6% of total)
Average number of California facings: 119.2
• Average red wine facings: 52.6
• Average white wine facings: 45.5