Why Now is the Right Time for New Wines (and New Distribution Models)

Attending events is always exciting. There’s the “event high,” as I call it, from attendees who get re-energized for their businesses by having met like-minded people who share ideas, suggestions, or new products or services. It is a way to detach from the day-to-day running of your business, and focus on working on your business and immersing yourself in a supportive, innovative, environment.

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Vinexpo New York was no exception. The organizers enjoyed a successful 2018 launch of their event in NYC. With 500 exhibitors from 23 countries, the event drew over 3400 attendees. On the heels of this success, the organizers have already announced their 2019 event to be held at the Javits Center again on March 4-5, 2019.

While visiting many of the exhibitors (and tasting lots of Austrian Gruner Veltliner!), we were able to attend some of the Master Classes as well as conference sessions. These sessions were not only informative, but were the impetus for us to come away with our own ‘event high’ and feeling energized and excited for what is to come. Here are a few highlights that were key takeaways for us.

Consumer Tastes are Changing

In Brandy Rand’s session, Key Trends in US and Global Consumption, she shared key data points her organization, IWSR, has identified by tracking millions of consumer behaviors. One major one for the wine industry - consumer tastes are changing. People no longer are drawn to the sweeter, unnatural flavors. Drinkers are looking for fresh fruit flavors over phony ones, and more savory, floral and herbal tastes. Drinks considered “natural” or a little processed as possible are drawing more attention now than ever.

Millennials are a Material Impact

For those born after 1980(ish), wine is a bit intimidating, but also exciting. They look for wine to fit their lifestyle, not the other way around. As a result, they are less brand loyal, and want refreshing, accessible wines, and are more likely to try new regions and varietals that are non-traditional. They purchase in non-traditional venues like e-commerce or food festivals. The idea of on- or off-premise is foreign to them. They want “my-premise” to purchase what and when they want - especially those in the trade. They also make value-driven purchases, which leads us to point three...

Value-Driven Selections

Consumers are less willing to pay top dollar for wines simply because it has an AOC or varietal with which they are familiar. They are looking for good value wines. This does not mean cheap wines. In fact, the $10-$20 and over $20 categories are growing at a faster rate than any other price tier. Models like DTC (direct-to-consumer) and DTT (direct-to-trade) are increasing in popularity since it drives the retail price of the wines down and makes typically hard-to-get wines more accessible. Consumers don’t care about the three-tier system - only the industry does. So consumers are looking for better value wherever they can get it - be it disrupting the traditional distribution models, or finding unknown wines that don’t have inflated values based on nothing other than tradition.

So why does all this get us energized? The timing is right to introduce the US to wines from Moravia and other regions that are lesser-known. They are exciting, surprising, and deliver tremendous value. They follow natural and often biodynamic processes, and result in many refreshing, fun, and complex wines.

So if your restaurant doesn’t have something different at a good value on the wine list, you better look for something quick. Or if your store is stocking only the traditional, well-known brands and varietals, you too may be missing out on revenue.

So while we may have missed meeting Martha, it was time well spent!

Cheers!