BevAlc Insights’ 2022 White Wine Category Forecast
While younger generations are consuming less white wine, premiumization and increased diversity are driving overall category trends
One of the top segments on the Drizly platform, white wine is a strong retail category that has remained steady despite widespread purchasing changes during the pandemic. Today, white wine is maintaining its popularity, with category trends driven by seasonality. However, a deep dive into Drizly data from in 2020 to 2022 reveals interesting trends and insights on generational preferences within the category overall.
Inside White Wine Subcategory Trends
Year-to-date in 2022, white wine has accounted for 29 percent share of the wine category, a consistent share that it held for 2021 and 2020 as well. However, since 2017, white wine share has decreased by two percentage points.
According to data from Nielsen IQ, white wine sales declined by 3.4 percent in the 52-week period ending March 26, 2022, which is slightly less of a decline compared to overall wine category sales, which decreased by 5.2 percent over the same time period. Some data suggests this decline could be the result of generational shifts, as millennial and Gen Z consumers choose non-wine beverages like hard seltzer and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, but they could also be prompted by increasing interest in other wine categories, such as Champagne and sparkling wine.
Even though sparkling wine sales may be cutting into white wine share on Drizly, Julie Rossman, the vice president of marketing at Marlborough, New Zealand’s Kim Crawford Wines, maintained in 2021 that the increasing popularity of wines that are similar to white wine – like rosé and Prosecco – has been beneficial to the category.
“Studies have shown that more and more consumers are including wine in their consideration set for refreshing alcoholic beverages that was once dominated by the beer and spirits categories,” says Rossman, “which has obviously benefited the white wine segment, as those wines are typically consumed chilled.”
Over the past 12 months, the peak months for white wine share were the summer months of June, July, and August when share spiked to a year-round high of 31 percent of the wine category. White wine share dropped to its year-round low in December, when it accounted for just 21 percent of wine category share. “White wine sales have proven to be quite seasonal, gaining share and peaking in spring and summer months, then dropping off in the fall,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “Retailers should certainly take seasonsilty into account when stocking this category and be prepared for peak sales in the coming months.”
Across Drizly, the far-reaching premiumization trend has also affected white wine, driving up the average unit price steadily from an average price of $13.80 in 2017 to $15.40 in 2022 to-date. The vast majority of white wine sold on Drizly, 65 percent, falls within the $10 to $20 price range. This data suggests retailers should focus on the core SKUs in the $10 to $20 range rather than stocking up on luxury wines over $20, which combined make up just 22 percent of white wine share.
Which White Wines Are Selling?
Despite the emergence of more unique grape varieties across Drizly, the top-selling white wine sub-categories are stable: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio remain the most popular white wine varieties, respectively comprising 39 percent, 31 percent, and 21 percent of share. These three grape varieties have prevailed since 2020, and their wide recognition leaves them poised to endure as category leaders.
“The leading white wine varieties account for approximately 36 percent of total wine in the US,” says Adam Rogers, the North American research director of IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, noting that Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc varieties also led consumption according to IWSR data. “Although each experienced declines last year, they are trending more positively in 2022.”
According to Rossman, Sauvignon Blanc has grown by 24 percent in the U.S. market – more than any other varietal wine. “Sauvignon Blanc has a distinctly different style compared to Chardonnay, and consumers gravitate to the crisp, refreshing, light-bodied, and flavor-rich characteristics, especially those that originate from New Zealand,” she says. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was the best-selling white wine SKU on Drizly in 2022, and has been the top-selling white wine brand since 2020.
The majority of white wines sold on Drizly come from the U.S., with American wines comprising 50 percent of white wine share over the past 12 months. New Zealand held the No. 2 spot with 24 percent of share, largely driven by the popularity of its Sauvignon Blancs, and Italy came in at No. 3. All three countries maintained their rankings over 2021 and 2020. French white wines, long the No. 4 most popular country of origin, are on the rise, gaining two percentage points in share so far this year.
Interestingly, the fastest-growing white wine subcategories all represent more obscure grape varieties such as Niagara, Aligote, Cayuga, Macabeo, Zinfandel, and Grillo – suggesting some well-known varieties like Riesling and Muscat could potentially fall off the top five most popular grapes listing in favor of novel varieties. Consumers across categories are consistently seeking new and alternative interpretations of their preferred beverages, so it’s likely these grapes are on the rise due to the spirit of discovery many consumers are embracing.
“Availability is likely a factor,” explains Paquette. “We continue to onboard new retail partners with wide and unique selections that makes these more unique products available to shop on Drizly when they previously were not.”
Drizly’s Best-Selling White Wine SKUs, Past 12 Months
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc
- Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio DOC
- Cavit Pinot Grigio
- Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc
- Barefoot Pinot Grigio
- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
- Bota Box Pinot Grigio
- Josh Cellars Chardonnay
Drizly’s Fastest-Growing White Wine SKUs, Past 12 Months
- La Crema Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc
- The Prisoner Carneros Chardonnay White Wine
- Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cuvée
- Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato
- Cupcake LightHearted Pinot Grigio White Wine
- Dom Auchere Sancerre
- Cupcake LightHearted Chardonnay White Wine
- Black Girl Magic California Riesling
- Luna di Luna Pinot Grigio
- Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux Brut
Who is Buying White Wine?
White wine buying continues to skew toward older and female customers on Drizly. In the past 12 months, Gen X consumers have over-indexed on white wine – making up 35 percent of share versus 30 percent share on Drizly overall – while Gen Z and millennial consumers have under-indexed on white-wine buying.
“We know that the younger generations like millennials and Gen Z are drinking less wine overall, especially traditional still wine, than previous generations,” explains Paquette, “which is likely contributing to the share decline as more and more of these consumers become of legal drinking age.”
Women likewise over-index on white wine purchasing, accounting for 65 percent share of purchasing within the white wine category versus 52 percent on Drizly overall.
Active Lifestyles and Discovery to Drive Future Sales
As consumers increasingly seek out refreshing, lower-calorie, and “better-for-you” beverages, white wine is poised to drive sales in the future. “Retailers should keep in mind that healthy living continues to be an important passion area for consumers today,” says Rossman.
Rogers agrees. “Leading New Zealand brands Kim Crawford, Matua, and Starborough each recently engaged in the health and wellness trend by offering lower-calorie and -ABV line extensions to their parent brands,“ he adds.
In order to maximize sales, retailers should consider having a healthy stock of white wines chilled for consumers to purchase both in-store and online. “Cold wine is an excellent opportunity to get consumers to try new varieties,” says Rossman. Chilled products are especially important for smaller packaging formats, like cans. Additionally, price points tend to be higher for chilled wines, according to a Numerator survey conducted in 2020.