Merlot out as consumers get adventurous

UK consumers are showing enthusiasm for less familiar grape varieties, according to recent analysis by on-trade specialists CGA Strategy.

Still wine data for the end of 2011 (CGA Brand Index MAT to 26.11.11) showed classic varieties Chardonnay, Merlot and Zinfandel rosé leading an overall on-trade volume decline of 7%.

Merlot in particular appears to be losing favour, posting a 9.2% volume drop, around 23,000 cases. Meanwhile Chardonnay fell by 6.3% – around 16,000 cases – and Zinfandel volumes dropped by 10.5%, or around 9,000 cases.

Analysing this data, CGA’s Ellie Quigley observed: “This helps to highlight the trend that shows better-known varieties are at greater risk of losing favour in a competitive market, as consumers seek experience and ‘change from the norm’ from their visits to the on-trade.”

For Merlot and Chardonnay, this decline was primarily attributed to their faltering performance in the restaurant sector, despite CGA recording a 1% rise in these outlets. However, Quigley explained: “Wine offerings are fast becoming broader as consumers look to get more out of treat-spend, with value for money reigning supreme.”

For Zinfandel rosé, the problems lie in the ailing night and social club sector, with Quigley remarking that widespread closures “create a smaller number of options for younger audiences attracted to easy-drinking rosé.” However, she did point to significant growth for the variety in restaurants, where it has seen sales increase by 19.4%.

“It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into the summer, or whether volume increases fall to younger, drinking-led outlets,” Quigley added.

In contrast to the fortunes of these varieties, CGA reported particularly strong performances from Shiraz, which saw sales grow by 7.7%, and Viognier, which leapt by 242.2%. Blended wines also performed well, with growth of 4.5%, or around 2,000 cases, over the period.

Summing up this shift, Quigley commented: “The popularity of more obscure varieties shows the increasingly broad range of wines now being stocked in outlets, as wine offerings expand and suppliers become increasingly sophisticated with their ranges.”

One Response to “Merlot out as consumers get adventurous”

  1. UK wine consumers are starting to adhere to exclusiveness of less known varieties. You’re not cool if you drink Merlot, your cool if you drink something more exclusive like Tinta Barroca or Malvasia fina… The more unpronounceable the better!

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