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DTC wine shipments hit $4 billion as volumes return to pre-pandemic levels

US direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine sales surpassed the $4 billion mark for the first time in 2021, but following last year’s boom, volume shipments returned to more ‘normal’ pre-pandemic volumes, a new report has said. 

Vineyards landscape at sunrise in California, USA

The Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report from Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics, published today, showed total shipments hit 4.2 billion in 2021, as the bottle price jumped by a record 11.8% to $41.16.
This represented the highest price in a decade, boosting the overall value of DTC by 13.4%.

However, following last year’s unprecedented volume growth – which saw wine shipments jump 28% – 2021 saw the smaller year-on-year change in volume, rising just 1.4% to 8.5 million cases.

Larry Cormier, vice president, general manager, Sovos ShipCompliant said it was a reversal of the 2020 trends,  largely due to the reopening of the on-trade. “Fewer consumers shipping less expensive wines to drink at home and instead returned to purchasing those wines while eating and drinking out. And just as those buyers resumed what looked more like their pre-pandemic DTC purchasing patterns, 2020’s first-time buyers that stayed in the channel also adjusted their buying habits upward.”

Napa remained strong in value sales, accounting for 45% of the value of the overall DTC shipping channel in 2021, and seeing a $299 million increase in the value of shipments compared to 2020. This accounted for 60.3% of the entire increase in the overall channel’s value in 2021, the report said.

“While many regions experienced some level of growth in 2021, none were as impressive as Napa’s almost $300 million increase in value of DTC shipments,” Andrew Adams, Wine Analytics Report editor at Wines Vines Analytics said. “Increases in price per bottle shipped helped balance out the decreases in volume that some regions experienced, creating an overall increase in value for the West Coast.”

However, it was not only about Napa – Oregon continued to see shipments grow, with a 12.9% increase in volume sales, and values growing 18.7%, making it the best performing region in 2021.  Another notable state was Kentucky, a new entrant to the channel following changes to DTC laws when went into effect in December 2020. The following 12 months saw shipments rise by 244.8%.

Although larger wineries with lower price points saw smaller value gains, these were able to recover from last year’s value drop, which saw the average price per bottle fall by 17.3% in 2020. The average price recovered by around 4.5% increase in 2021. These wineries account for around 18.7% of total DTC shipping volume in 2021.

“As the world began to open back up, American wine drinkers became far more comfortable visiting wineries in person, returning to buying wine in-store, and imbibing at restaurants rather than solely at home,” beverage alcohol consultant Danny Brager said.

“Yet, even while that was occurring, DtC shipments remained exceptionally strong in 2021. Now as COVID-19’s impact on travel and tourism lessens, there is every reason to believe DTC shipments based on winery visitation and new club memberships will be strong in 2022.”

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