Moscato, Riesling and Malbec have shown 'explosive' growth in the US in the last two years, Nielsen's latest survey shows.
The top six wine types – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc – represent 64% of US consumer spending on wine, but other varieties show surprising growth.
Speaking at Vinexpo this week, Danny Brager of analysts Nielsen said still wines made from Moscato showed growth in both value and volume of more than 95% since 2010.
They were followed by Riesling (up 12% in volume) and Malbec (up 49%).
‘This is explosive growth. A couple of years ago Moscato and Malbec weren’t even on the list of top 12 varietals,’ Brager said.
Red blends, both from California and Bordeaux are also showing growth, with 5.4% increase over the year.
At the same time Merlot is ‘struggling’, showing a 3.8% fall in volume since 2009, while Syrah, or Shiraz, is down by 10.4%.
Nielsen puts forward a variety of reasons for the changing fortunes of these grape varieties, chief among them the growing purchasing power of the Hispanic population in the US, and the increasing popularity of lighter styles.
Two other demographic segments, those aged 17-34 – ‘Millennials’, and those aged 35-46 – ‘Generation X’, are ‘driving the growth of the wine sector’, Brager’s co-presenter John Gillespie of the Wine Market Council said.
US Hispanics now number 50.5m – more than the entire population of Spain or Argentina and close to the population of France, the UK or Italy – a demographic that represents a great opportunity, ‘or risk’, Brager said.
This sector naturally favours wines from Spain and South America, at the same time having a tendency to prefer sweeter styles – hence the rise in popularity of Malbec, Moscato and sweeter Riesling styles.
Hispanics, however, are ‘underdeveloped’ wine consumers, representing only 10% of overall wine purchases in the US.
For their part, the younger Millennial and Generation X sectors tend to be interested in the health-giving aspects of wine and gravitate towards lighter, lower-alcohol styles.
Light beer, for example, accounts for 50% of all beer sales in the US, and producers like Inglenook are cashing in on this trend with low-alcohol wine styles.
Written by Adam Lechmere