2014 Growth Brands: Wine and Spirits

While job growth in U.S. continues to move forward in fits and starts, the overall U.S. economy is still in a modest recovery mode. Depending on which economist or pundit you read or listen to, we are either on the verge of a sustained period of solid growth, in danger of slipping back into recession, or somewhere in between. But given the volatility of the modern world, it could be unwise to accept the analyses of those who apparently speak with unwavering certainty. What is certain, however, is that overall distilled spirits sales volume increased in 2013 for the seventeenth consecutive year, while overall wine sales volume saw positive results in 2013 for the twentieth year in a row.

According to the latest statistics, just released in the Handbook Advance 2014, published by the Beverage Information Group, total U.S. distilled spirits sales volume in 2013 rose to an estimated 210.6 million 9-liter cases, notching a 2.4% gain versus 2012. That represents a sales volume bump of nearly 5 million 9-liter cases over 2012. Importantly, overall spirits retail revenue growth (the combined dollar total of off- and on-premise sales) also increased in 2013, by a healthy 4.2% to $75.82 billion, a gain of more than $3 billion over 2012. The higher percentage gain in spirits revenue (versus spirits sales volume) underlines the ongoing trend of recent years: the dynamic sales activity among premium-priced and above-premium-priced spirits products.

The same holds true in the wine segment. Total U.S. wine sales volume increased by an estimated 2.2% in 2013, to approximately 326.0 million 9-liter cases. This represents a sales volume gain of more than 6.8 million 9-liter cases versus 2012 totals. And similar to spirits, the move toward high-end purchases continued in the wine segment, evidenced by the segment’s 3.6% revenue increase in 2013, to just under $30 billion.

Spirits Overview

The huge vodka category now comprises 34.1% of all spirits consumed in the U.S. But following years of annual growth rates hovering around 6%, the category gained only 2.5% in 2013, to an estimated 71.8 million 9-liter cases, adding nearly 1.4 million cases to its sales total. One explanation for the declining growth rate is simply the law of large numbers: the category has become so dominant in the spirits landscape that even a large volume increase does not equal a large percentage increase. On the other hand, some observers believe that a bit of consumer fatigue with the wide array of flavored vodkas is finally affecting the market. That may be true for some vodka brands, but for others, flavors remain an essential element in their product mix. Indeed, last year, suppliers continued to introduce new vodka brands, line extensions and flavors to the marketplace. At the same time, the superpremium vodka segment remains an important and vibrant part of the industry.

Rum, the second-largest spirits category, also saw growth in 2013, though up a very modest 0.3% to an estimated 26.83 million 9-liter cases. A variety of popular rum-based cocktails continues to aid category sales (the Mojito, etc). In addition, the category is also benefiting from new spiced and flavored rum product introductions, as well as a growing niche of aficionados drawn to higher-end rum offerings.

Straight American whiskey had a stellar year in 2013, with sales volume rising 5.6% to 17.45 million 9-liter cases. The segment continues to be energized by growth in the superpremium segment, while also benefiting from flavored bourbon debuts. At the same time, the smaller American blends segment decreased by 1.5% to just over 4.86 million 9-liter cases. For its part, overall Scotch whisky built on 2012’s modest gain (up 0.2%) to increase by 2.3%, one of the best showings for the category in recent years, totaling about 8.84 million 9-liter cases. Though several blended Scotch brands performed well, single malt Scotch sales saw an 11.7% across the board increase. Likewise, Canadian Whisky added to its modest sales increase in 2012, with a 1.2% gain 2013, to 15.65 million 9-liter cases. The segment’s recent popularity can be partly traced to an increase in high-quality, high-end offerings, flavored whiskies, and the consumer’s newly discovered interest in rye.

The smallest imported whiskey category, Irish and Other whiskies, jumped another 16.1% in 2013, to almost 2.5 million 9-liter cases, once again driven primarily by the ongoing success of Jameson Irish Whiskey. Tequila also increased last year, with consumption up a healthy 5.2% to 13.62 million 9-liter cases. Still largely driven by the Margarita, the category’s consumption trends also take into account the various levels – from premium to superpremium to ultra-premium – of a brand’s portfolio. The third-largest spirits category, cordials & liqueurs, saw a significant consumption increase of 6.1% in 2013, to 22.33 million 9-liter cases. The fast growth of honey-flavored whiskies most likely played a role in the gains. The brandy & cognac category also saw sales rise in 2013, by 2.4% to 10.75 million cases, with the largest increases, once again, seen among the high-end cognac segment. The gin category continued its slight decline from last year, down 1.2% in 2013; however, its increasingly visible high-end segment posted a 3.9% gain. For its part, Prepared Cocktails saw a decline, off 8.9%.


Wine Review

Table wine comprises almost 92.0% of all wine consumed in the U.S., and it continued growing in 2013, rising 2.3% in 2013 to reach just under 299 million 9-liter cases. Domestic brands continued to outperform imports, gaining 2.5%, while imported table wines were up 1.3% overall. Domestic table wines now represent 70.8% of the overall U.S. wine market. Most industry observers point to the growth of premium- and superpremium-priced wines as an important dynamic in the marketplace, even though the majority of the overall sales volume is composed of wines selling for under $10 per bottle.

Champagne & Sparkling wine posted a 2.7% increase in 2013, to almost 17.2 million 9-liter cases. Most of the growth in the category came from the more affordable domestic and imported sparklers. Even smaller in size is the Dessert & Fortified wine category, which declined another 2.0% in 2013, to 8.14 million cases, while vermouth was off 1.4%.

Brands Maintaining Growth

So, what is the rationale for publishing our Growth Brands lists? To quote what we’ve said here before, “There are beverage alcohol products in every category and at every price point that, for any number of reasons, have either lagged behind or outpaced their respective competitors. Often, a combination of elements – among them solid distribution and retail support, supplier resources, marketing creativity, product heritage and brand equity, the right economic environment, a solid product in the bottle, advantageous price positioning and sometimes just plain luck – help lead to product success.” For example, six years ago, at the height of the Great Recession, a number of high-flying brands suffered, particularly several superpremium-priced brands. At the same time, many value-priced brands thrived; and many other brands of differing price points adjusted to new market realities. Since the economy recovered, most of those superpremium brands have regained momentum; simultaneously, a wide variety of additional brands have continued to make positive strides with consumers and retailers alike. Those are the brands that appear on the following pages. And, as we’ve said in the past, though evaluating category consumption trends can provide the big picture, drilling down to actual brand performance provides the details. Thus, the reason for our annual Growth Brands report, which uses the most up-to-date industry results to highlight the wine and spirits brands with noteworthy growth over the past several years. [The September/October 2014 issue of Beverage Dynamics will publish Beer Growth Brand results.]

Spirits Fast Track Brands

The Fast Track Growth Brands category includes the top-performing brands, percentage-wise, during the past four years. The criteria are demanding: a wine or spirit must have maintained double-digit percentage growth over each of those four years while selling at least 100,000 9-liter cases this past year. Based on the Beverage Information Group’s 2013 statistics, 15 spirits brands made the Fast Track list this year, six fewer than last year’s total of 21. This year there are three new Fast Track spirits members, while three of the brands from last year that fell off the list moved to the Established Growth Brand category.

Overall, there are five vodkas numbered among the 15 Fast Track brands, with three of the top five brands being vodkas. The first, Burnett’s Vodka, leads the Fast Track, having broken through the 2 million case mark in 2012. The brand gained another 15.3% in 2013, notching 2.35 million 9-liter cases. The value-priced vodka counts Pink Lemonade, Limeade, Orange Cream and Maple Syrup among its nearly three dozen flavors.

Tito’s Handmade, the above-premium-priced vodka from Texas, returned to the Fast Track, showing another year of amazing growth, up 41.2%, breaking through the 1 million case barrier to 1.2 million 9-liter cases last year. Tito’s has successfully leveraged its made in America heritage and maintains its single original vodka in a sea of vodkas that have added numerous flavors onto their mother brand. Fast Track repeater, mid-priced Platinum 7X Vodka, distilled seven times, saw sales increase 12.7% last year, to 738,000 cases. Other vodkas include new Fast Track member Exclusiv, which exploded by 94.8% last year, to 565,000 cases. Priced at about $10 for a 750 ml bottle, Exclusiv, imported from Moldova, has successfully challenged the value-priced tier with its original vodka, plus several flavors, as well as a Rose Vodka, which is a blend of rose moscato and vodka. The final vodka listed here is Pearl Vodka, from Canada, which also returned to the Fast Track after another impressive year. The premium-priced brand increased its sales in 2013 by 15.7% to 250,000 cases.

Five different whiskey brands were likewise listed here, all of them Fast Track repeaters. Jameson Irish Whiskey gained 250,000 9-liter cases, to about 1.86 million 9-liter cases. The brand continues to dominate the Irish whiskey category and is still one of the fastest-growing whiskey products with significant sales, percentage-wise, in the U.S. market. The second Fast Track repeater is Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine, which more than doubled its sales last year, gaining almost 200,000 cases to 320,000 cases. Packaged in “moonshine-like” mason jars, the above-premium-priced Midnight Moon is handcrafted in small batches and includes the original 80 proof moonshine whiskey along with 70 proof flavors of Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Apple Pie, Cherry, Cranberry and Blackberry, which are infused with real fruit. Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky, first established in 1884, reached sales of 307,000 9-liter cases in 2013. The venerable portfolio includes Buchanan’s De Luxe, a 12-year-old blended Scotch made with a core of Dalwhinnie single malt; Buchanan’s Special Reserve, which is aged a minimum of 18 years; and top of the line Buchanan’s 21-year old Red Seal. Two American straight whiskies are repeating as the Fast Track winners. Bulleit Bourbon increased sales by an impressive 52.4%, to 282,000 cases in 2013; the brand is also seeing success with a superpremium-priced rye it added to its lineup in 2012. Woodford Reserve, another superpremium bourbon, gained 18.2% last year, to 214,000 9-liter cases. In 2012, the straight whiskey launched Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon, and also features a Master’s Collection that releases limited edition bottlings annually.

The three liqueurs in the Fast Track include two whiskey-based products, both of which have been listed here before. Fireball, once again, exploded in the market in 2013, more than doubling its sales to 1.87 million 9-liter cases. The 66-proof cinnamon-flavored whiskey liqueur has carved a niche for itself as a popular shooter, and it has spawned several similar brands from other suppliers in the wake of its enormous success. For its part, Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur is one of the whiskey-based honey-flavored products seeing success in the market. The 71 proof Wild Turkey Bourbon line extension reached sales of 335,000 9-liter cases in 2013, a 17.1% increase. The third liqueur is Rum Chata, new to the Fast Track, having moved over from the Rising Star category after five years on the market. The above-premium-priced, rum-based liqueur posted sales of 460,000 cases in 2013, a 41.5% gain. The liqueur blends rum with cream, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon, and it comes in a uniquely shaped bottle.

Also new to the Fast Track is Ron Diaz, a rum imported from Barbados. The brand reached sales of 286,000 cases in 2013, a 15.8% increase. The brand features a portfolio that includes a spiced version, several flavored expressions, a regular dark and gold rum and a superpremium Grand Reserva.

Once again, the only gin to attain the Fast Track is Hendrick’s Gin, the superpremium brand with subtle, not forward, juniper characteristics. The brand grew to 209,000 cases in 2013, a 20.4% increase.

Rising Star brands have been on the market four years or less and are represented here for a few reasons: They have demonstrated significant growth over a short time; they have made a notable impression in the market; or they are still relatively small (with a requirement of selling at least 20,000 9-liter cases) but show promise. Last year the list included 28 Rising Stars; this year there are 33, with 18 of them new to the category. Suggested retail prices for these Rising Stars span the range from a lineup of value-priced brands to a number of superpremium-priced products.

Once again topping the Rising Star category is New Amsterdam Vodka, a companion to New Amsterdam Gin. The competitively priced vodka from E&J Gallo increased its sales in 2013 by 75.0%, to nearly 2 million cases in just its third year on the market.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Liqueur, which had a strong 2011 debut, had an impressive 2013, selling 595,000 9-liter cases, a 22.2% gain. Made from a blend of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and a proprietary honey liqueur, the above-premium-priced brand is 70 proof and features notes of honey, cinnamon and spice. Indeed, other flavored whiskey and whiskey-branded liqueurs are notable on this list. Evan Williams Flavored Reserve Liqueurs, a line extension of Evan Williams Bourbon, includes the brand’s original Honey Reserve and Cherry Reserve flavors. The 70 proof liqueur reached sales of 165,000 cases in 2013, growing by 16.2%. The Early Times Bourbon brand released the line extension Early Times Fire Eater Hot Cinnamon Liqueur, with sales of 20,000 cases in its first full year on the market. Apparently hoping to emulate the success of Fireball, the 66 proof Fire Eater also hopes to appeal to a shooter constituency. Ditto for SinFire Cinnamon Whiskey, which reached sales of 35,000 9-liter cases last year. The 70 proof brand features a thermostatic label that lets a consumer know when the bottle is chilled to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, apparently the optimum temperature to consume it as a shooter.

Spirits Rising Star Brands

Another fast-growing Rising Star whiskey is Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, made from grain alcohol, which features 16 flavors along with its original 100 proof White Lightning. Its $27 price tag doesn’t seem to be keeping consumers from buying it, since the brand more than doubled its sales last year to 225,000 9-liter cases. At 80 proof, Bird Dog Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey features its base brand along with four flavored expressions: Blackberry, Maple, Peach and Hot Cinnamon. Priced at about $20, the young whiskey brand reached 62,000 9-liter cases last year. For its part, the spiced Canadian whisky, Revel Stoke, notched sales of 23,000 cases last year.

Non-flavored whiskies include two Jim Beam Brand extensions: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, which grew to 77,000 cases in 2013, a 42.9% increase. The relatively new expression uses a proprietary process to reclaim the whiskey that has been absorbed into the barrel, resulting in a unique taste. And then there is Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost, Beam’s new take on white whiskey. Jacob’s Ghost boasts a point of differentiation from other white whiskies in that it is aged for two years, imparting a smoothness to the product. Retailing for about $22, Jacob’s Ghost hit 50,000 9-liter cases in its first full year on the market. The mid-priced Jesse James American Outlaw Bourbon notched 26,000 cases last year. The company says the mid-priced brand is made in the traditional Southern manner, mellowed in charcoal and aged in oak casks. The final whiskey among the Rising Stars is another newcomer, 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, which Beam purchased at the end of 2012; it is now available nationwide. Made in the Kilbeggan Distillery, 2 Gingers posted sales of 30,000 cases in 2013, while apparently developing a loyal female consumer base.

Several rums are repeating as Rising Stars, including The Kraken Spiced Rum, which had a 20.0% increase to 270,000 cases. The tar-colored black rum sells for above-premium prices and boasts a rich, spicy character. Bacardi Oakheart reached sales of 190,000 cases in 2013. Oakheart debuted in 2011 as Bacardi’s first mainstream spiced rum product, joining a host of other spiced rum brands in the category’s most vibrant niche. That segment also includes the returning Rising Star Blackheart Premium Spiced Rum, a 93-proof brand that is premium-priced. In 2013, the brand sold 65,000 cases. And then there’s Shellback Caribbean Rum, from Barbados. The premium-priced Shellback includes a spiced and a silver expression, and sold 75,000 cases in its second year on the market. New among Rising Star brands is Ron Barcelo, which features a lineup of eight expressions, ranging from mid- to superpremium pricing.

Familia Camarena Tequila is back as a Rising Star, with notable growth of 36.0% in 2013, growing to 571,000 9-liter cases. Both the Silver and Reposado versions are made with 100% blue agave and produced using a small batch, pot still distillation process. The brand sells at very competitive prices. The above-premium priced tequila, Zarco, offers silver and gold expressions. Made from blue agave, it boasts a proprietary production technique. It sold 140,000 cases last year. Another tequila, Old Mexico, offers Oro and Blanco expressions, at value prices. The brand reached sales of 25,000 cases in 2013. Priced above premium is the lineup of Olmeca Altos Tequilas. The 100% agave brand hit 28,000 cases last year.

We don’t know how many bottles of Kinky have been sold because of its name; however, who cares? Billing itself as a vodka liqueur, the 34 proof brand sold 382,000 9-liter cases last year, a 50.4% increase. The brand, which retails for about $23, is a blend of mango, blood orange and passion fruit with five-times distilled vodka. There’s also a Blue version.

A more traditional vodka is a new Rising Star, Deep Eddy, a handcrafted, small-batch vodka produced in Texas. The brand tripled its sales last year to 190,000 cases. Unlike the more famous Texan vodka, Tito’s, Deep Eddy also offers Sweet Tea and Ruby Red flavored expressions. Another new Rising Star is Ivanabitch Vodka, imported from The Netherlands, which gained 20% to sales of 192,000 cases. Selling for about $12 per bottle, the brand has grabbed attention with its tobacco-flavored expressions.

Other vodkas noted here include Wave, which posted 86,000 cases in 2013. The lineup of value-priced flavored vodkas is led by Purple Wave, a grape-flavored vodka. Vesica Vodka is a Polish, triple-distilled potato vodka. The value-priced brand reached 53,000 cases last year. A higher-priced vodka (around $25 retail) making the Rising Stars for the first time is Devotion, which bills itself as “sugar-free” and “gluten-free.” Besides the original, the brand features five flavors, which altogether totaled 30,000 cases in 2013. At a similar price point is American Harvest, a vodka that bills itself right on the front label as an organic spirit. The brand also boasts organic flavoring that comes across as a subtle vanilla sweetness. Made in Iowa, American Harvest reached sales of 35,000 cases last year. At the superpremium level is Double Cross Vodka, imported from the Slovak Republic and distilled seven times. Packaged in a uniquely shaped bottle, the brand reached 21,000 cases last year.

For its part, Twenty Grand is a vodka-infused cognac, retailing for about $29. The brand notched a healthy 50,000 cases its first full year on the market. Another new Rising Star is the pumpkin-flavored liqueur, Fulton’s Harvest. The brand posted 65,000 9-liter cases in its second year on the market.

Finally, two Sauza Tequila branded line extensions are listed here: the prepared cocktail Sauza Sparkling Margarita, which had sales of 65,000 cases in its inaugural year, and Sauza Hornitos Lime Shots, another prepared cocktail, which notched sales of 30,000 cases in its first full year on the market.

Spirits Established Growth Brands

The Spirits Established Growth Brand category represents large-volume brands (sales of more than 400,000 cases) that increased sales over each of the last four years. The brands cited here are mostly mature brands; there are a number of premium and above-premium priced brands here, as well as several value-priced products. Of the 26 Established Growth Brands in 2013 (nine more than in 2012), 16 return to the list from last year, and 10 are new to the category.

A dozen of the brands here are vodkas, beginning with Smirnoff, which topped the list once again, with 2013 sales of nearly 9.93 million cases, a modest 0.8% gain, and maintained its position as the best-selling spirit in the U.S., aided by its lineup of flavored expressions (its two latest are Smirnoff Cinna-Sugar Twist and Wild Honey). Svedka, the Swedish import, priced lower than most other well-known imported vodkas, notched sales of 3.95 million cases in 2013, a 3.3% increase. With several flavors joining the original brand, Svedka maintained its solid growth. Indeed, the brand recently debuted two additional flavors: Svedka Mango Pineapple and Strawberry Lemonade. Pinnacle Vodka has created a niche with offbeat flavor extensions (ie, Whipped Cream, Key Lime Pie, Pumpkin Pie), and it recently added two more: Pinnacle Peppermint Bark and Caramel Apple. The brand hit 2.85 million case sales in 2013, an outstanding 11.8% gain. For its part, Skyy Vodka increased by 1.6% to 2.85 million cases. The above-premium-priced brand continues to promote its portfolio of Infusions natural flavored vodkas, with two recent additions: Vanilla Bean and Georgia Peach.

Ketel One has rejoined the Growth Brand family. One of the many superpremiuum brands that suffered a sales decline during the initial throes of the Great Recession, the brand has regained its positive momentum, posting sales of more than 2.1 million cases in 2013. The superpremium grape-based vodka Ciroc, imported from France, is also new to the category, having moved over from last year’s Fast Track. Besides its original expression, the brand’s portfolio includes Red Berry, Coconut and Peach flavors. It increased sales by 3.0% last year, to more than 1.9 million cases. Also new to Established Growth Brands is the superpremium-priced Belvedere, a rye vodka imported from Poland, which saw sales increase last year to nearly a half million cases.

The remaining five vodkas are all generally below-premium priced, but their growth is nevertheless noteworthy. Barton grew another 1.5%, to sales of more than 2.07 million cases last year; Skol hit sales of 1.93 million cases (up 2.7%); UV Vodka, known for its wide range of flavored versions and moving over to this category from last year’s Fast Track, posted sales of 1.61 million cases; Sobieski, the Polish rye vodka that features a trio of flavors, reached just under 1 million cases last year; and Taaka Vodka, which gained a respectable 10.6% in 2013 to sales of 617,000 cases.

There are four tequilas in the category, with three of them featuring super- and ultra-premium expressions. Patron continued its positive sales momentum in 2013, with a 3.8% gain, to reach sales of more than 2.07 million cases; the brand’s latest expression is Gran Patron Piedra, an extra anejo that used a traditional “stone” production process. Sauza, new to the category, features an extensive portfolio ranging all the way up to ultra-premium; the brand eclipsed the 2 million case mark last year for the first time. The line of 1800 Tequila totaled 960,000 cases, representing a 3.8% increase, while Juarez Tequila, a value brand, ended last year with sales of 820,000 cases.

There are six whiskies noted here, among them Crown Royal, the superpremium Canadian whisky, which jumped another 3.5% in 2013 to 4.38 million cases. Last year, the brand entered the flavored whisky field with its own Crown Royal Maple Finished expression; just recently, it debuted the ultra-premium Crown Royal XO, finished in cognac casks. The venerable Jim Beam Bourbon is one of the major players in the renaissance of American Straight Whiskey. It posted a healthy 10.8% gain last year to just under 3.5 million cases. In addition to its popular base brand, Jim Beam had released several line extensions, most recently Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Year and Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy.

Two other bourbons continued to do well in the marketplace. The first, Evan Williams, climbed to sales of 1.65 million cases, a notable 15.3% increase. The bourbon’s base brand is competitively priced; however, it also features an ultra-premium single barrel expressions. Meanwhile, the superpremium Maker’s Mark Bourbon is another high-end product that has maintained its growth status, gaining another 5.6% in 2013, with sales of about 1.25 million cases.

Johnnie Walker Black is new to the category and its only Scotch. The brand increased a respectable 6.6% last year to 917,000 cases. Meanwhile, the value-priced Canadian whisky Rich & Rare returned to the Established Growth Brand category. The brand reached sales 833,000 cases in 2013.

Two rums are listed here. Admiral Nelson Spiced Rum grew another 2.5%, reaching sales of 820,000 cases, while Sailor Jerry, another spiced rum, notched sales of 733,000 cases. The brand is new to the category, moving over from last year’s Fast Track.

The final two spirits are well-known brands, yet new to the Established Growth category. The high-end Bombay Sapphire, the only gin noted here, increased sales to 939,000 cases, while the superpremium portfolio of Remy Martin Cognacs gained 2.1% to 647,000 cases.

As in previous years, the Wine Fast Track reflects the popularity of approachable, easygoing wines with clear imagery that generally sell for under $10 at retail. As always, there are several Fast Track wines that sell for above $10 and a couple that retail above $15 (including a few that feature lower-priced labels while also offering higher-priced reserve and single vineyard wines in their portfolio, for example). There are even one or two superpremium-and-above wine brands that are included here.

Wine Fast Track Brands

This year, Wine Fast Track brands number 35, compared to 33 from last year. Nine new brands were added this year, including four that were previously noted as Wine Rising Stars.

Once again leading the list is E&J Gallo’s Barefoot Cellars, with its expansive portfolio of varietal and other wines. Usually selling for below $10, the brand added an additional 1.5 million case sales in 2013, pushing its overall sales to 15.87 million cases, a 10.2% gain. E&J Gallo also has three other brands making their first appearance in this category (moving over from Rising Star status). They include Apothic, which features a line of California Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot retailing for below $10, with 2013 sales of 1.12 million 9-liter cases, a 14.3% gain. Alamos, a brand Gallo imports from Argentina, highlights a Malbec for under $10. Alamos sales jumped 14.4% in 2013 to 915,000 9-liter cases. And La Marca, an Italian Prosecco imported by Gallo, priced about $12-$13, which increased to sales of 278,000 cases, a respectable 26.4% gain. Three additional Gallo brands return to the Fast Track including Canyon Road, a line of red and white varietals, which reached sales of 815,000 cases (up 3.2%). Also returning is William Hill, the Napa Valley winery that specializes in superpremium-priced, complex Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. William Hill also just released its new Coastal Collection of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, at $17 suggested retail. The brand rose 15.7% last year to sales of 295,000 cases. In addition, Gallo’s Starborough is listed here. Imported from New Zealand, and primarily featuring its Sauvignon Blanc, it gained 26.9% in 2013 to 165,000 cases.

Constellation is represented by five fast-growing brands here, beginning with Black Box, which features a lineup of bag-in-box offerings. The brand gained a noteworthy 26.5% to 3.41 million cases. The company also boasts the value-priced Rex Goliath line of varietals and a Free Range Blend, which features the giant 47-lb. image of the Rex Goliath rooster on the label. The wine, with grapes sourced from California coastal vineyards, grew by 20.3% to more than 2.8 million cases. Mark West wines, which Constellation purchased last year for $160 million, reached sales of 800,000 cases last year, a 25.6 jump. The Sonoma County winery specializes in Pinot Noir, which it sells for very competitive prices. Another Constellation entry is superpremium-priced Kim Crawford wines, imported from New Zealand, which gained 23.0% to sales of 685,000 cases. Constellation’s new entry into the Fast Track is Diseno imported from Mendoza, Argentina, highlighted by a Malbec selling for about $10.

DFV Wines (Delicato Family Vineyards) also has several brands once again represented here. Bota Box, the company’s bag-in-box offering of varietals in 3-liter packages (priced approximately $15-$17) and known for its “sustainable” approach to its packaging, had another impressive year in 2013, increasing sales by 25.8%, reaching 2.58 million cases. DFV’s other entrants include the value-priced Twisted line of varietals (up 16.8%, reaching 437,000 cases), positioned to highlight accessibility, flavor and fun; and the slightly higher-priced Noble Vines, which grew by a notable 34.7% to sales of 404,000 cases.

Additional high-volume Fast Track brands include the returning Fast Track brand Bogle, the California line of varietals that sells for a range of prices (up 11.9% to more than 2 million cases). From Washington State is Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ mid-priced 14 Hands, which grew by 34.2%, hitting 1.37 million cases.

New to the Fast Track is the line of Big House wines, so named because the winery is not far from the infamous California penitentiary in Soldedad. Besides Big House Red and Big House White, the line includes playful prison-themed labels, such as The Great Escape Chardonnay, The Usual Suspect Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Evil Pinot Noir, etc., which all sell for about $10. The brand, which also offers a 3-liter box, saw sales rise 22.4% in 2013 to 600,000 cases. Also new to the category is the superpremium line of Decoy wines (from Duckhorn Wine Co.), which features duck decoys on its labels for six varietals and a red blend. The brand grew 46.9% to 260,000 cases.

Several notable Italian sparklers are represented here, beginning with the well-regarded Mionetto, which gained 14.7%, to hit 438,000 cases. The brand’s most popular offerings include the IL line of sparkling proseccos, moscatos and roses. Two Carriage House Imports offerings including Bosca Verdi Raspberry Sparkletini Italian Spumante (310,000 cases, up 10.7%) and Bosca Verdi Peach Sparkletini Italian Spumante (125,000 cases, up 19.0%). Both products are light, refreshing and sell for under $10. Lunetta Prosecco, also imported from Italy, saw its sales increase to 189,000 cases. And Riondo, which features a premium-priced prosecco as well as a pinot grigio, saw its sales climb to 403,000 cases (up 41.4%). New to the Fast Track is Luccio Moscato d’Asti, a Piedmontese sparkler selling for below $10, with sales of 114,000 cases.

Two brands returning to the Fast Track from Trinchero Family Estates are represented here: Three Thieves Bandit, which features a line of wines that come in 1 liter and 500 ml tetra pack containers; the brand gained 11.3% in 2013, hitting 257,000 cases. And SeaGlass, a line of California wines featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which generally sell above $10. SeaGlass gained a notable 37.0% last year to reach sales of 185,000 cases.

Another California winery, Cecchetti Wine Company, is represented here by the line of Line 39 wines. Featuring fruit-forward varietal reds and whites with grapes sourced from California’s Central and North coasts, Line 39 wines generally retail for about $15 to $17. The brand saw sales jump 37.7% to 143,000 cases. Also returning to the category is the Leese-Fitch line of Sonoma, CA, varietals, from The Other Guys, retailing for about $12 a bottle, which gained 10.4% last year to sales of 170,000 cases.

Other notable Fast Track brands include Oyster Bay, imported from New Zealand, which features its line of varietals at about $15 per bottle (up 19.7%, 468,000 cases); and Layer Cake, which includes a line of varietal wines sourced from key wine regions around the world: a malbec from Argentina, primitivo from Italy, shiraz from Australia, and California cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. The brand, which sells for about $15 to $17 a bottle, grew to 432,000 cases in 2013.

There are two entries from Argentina here, including the returning Fast Track brand New Age (165,000 cases, up 17.0%), with its Valentin Bianchi Vino Bianco, White Wine and Rose, all selling for below $10; and Catena (160,000 cases, up15.1%), which highlights its superpremium-priced Malbec.

Ninety+ Cellars, which features wines from California, Washington State, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and France, all priced $10 and above, is new to the Fast Track (moving up from Rising Star status). The brand gained 42.6% to 184,000 cases last year. And a final new addition to the Fast Track includes Cocobon, a California red blend from the Central Coast which sells for below $10. The brand hit 120,000 cases last year, up 29.0%.

Wine Rising Star Brands

Most Rising Star brands have been on the market for three years or less and have shown early sales success or, for even newer brands, initial potential. This year’s list includes 46 wine brands (versus 44 Rising Stars from last year) that vary in price range from value on up. And there are 25 wines here new to the Rising Star category. Though some of these Rising Stars (all must have sold at least 20,000 cases) are imported from well-known wine-producing regions, the majority of the brands hail from California.

The top brand on the list is The Wine Group’s Flip Flop, which features the image of a pair of flip flops on the label. The line of easy drinking varietals retails for about $7 a bottle and generated sales of 785,000 cases in 2013. The Dreaming Tree line, from Constellation, had another stellar year in 2103, increasing sales by 53.1% to 323,000 cases. The California wine features a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Crush, a red blend. Other Constellation brands listed here include Arbor Mist Frozen Wine Cocktails, which sold 316,000 cases in its second year on the market (the RTD drink is comprised of single-serve, 10-oz. pouches that come in a range of flavors, with each pouch retailing for $2 to $3); Thorny Rose, a returning Rising Star, which includes several Washington State (Columbia Valley) varietals and a Red Blend, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, with retail prices ranging from about $9 to $12 per bottle (85,000 cases); and the new Rising Star Ooh La La (about $11 retail), a line featuring a pinot grigio, riesling, chardonnay and rose, all presented in a colorful polka dot label aimed at female consumers (35,000 cases).

Underlining the appeal of fresh, effervescent wines, the new Rising Star Risata Moscato d’Asti is listed here. Imported from Italy, Risata retails for above $10 and hit sales of 202,000 cases last year.

The entwine label, a partnership between Wente Vineyards and The Food Network, continues to grow in popularity. It reached sales of 200,000 cases last year. The food-friendly lineup of wines includes several varietals, retailing for $11-$13. Wente also includes Hayes Ranch wines in this category (36,000 cases). The brand bills itself as “California wines that embrace the spirit of the American West,” and include a Chardonnay ($10) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($12).

Trinchero Family Estates features three brands new to the Rising Star category: Fancy Pants, a line of California varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Red blend, in the $11 retail range (66,000 cases in its first full year on the market); Duck Commander (38,000 cases), launched in the fourth quarter last year, from the Robertson Family wines of TV’s Duck Dynasty fame, with a line including Triple Threat Red Blend, Miss Priss Pink Moscato, and Wood Duck Chardonnay, all $10; and Charles & Charles (37,000 cases), Trinchero’s first Washington State brand and a collaboration between Walla Walla winemaker Charles Smith and NYC wine innovator Charles Bieler. The line includes a Rose, Chardonnay and a Red at $14 each.

For its part, DFV Wines (Delicato Family Vineyards) numbers a quintet of Rising Star brands, with the Handcraft Artisan Collection Wines having the largest impact at 125,000 cases. The brand features a lineup of robust, flavorful California varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay) made with a “dash of Italian varietals” added, the company says. Also from DFV are the returning Rising Stars Massimo wines (48,000 cases), which includes a Spanish Rioja and a Malbec from Argentina; and Black Stallion (32,000 cases), a Napa Valley winery featuring handcrafted, superpremium-priced varietals. DFV’s new Rising Star entries include Sequin wines (67,000 cases in its first full year on the market), a line that includes Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Rose in the $12 price range; and La Merika (38,000 cases), California Central Coast varietals retailing for $13-$15.

Other Returning Rising Stars include Quintessential Wines’ Bodegas Muriel (105,000 cases), which includes a lineup of Tempranillo-based wines imported from Spain (Crianza, Gran Reserva, JME, Seleccion and a Blanco), with retail prices ranging from premium to superpremium; Cecchetti Wine Co.’s Backhouse line of affordable California varietals, which hit 72,000 cases; Ruta 22, from Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, which rose to 65,000 cases; Butterfly Kiss (65,000 cases), from Diageo Chateau & Estate, which targets female consumers with its California-produced lineup of light and floral Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Pink Pinot Grigio, retailing for about $10 per bottle; Stark Raving wines (50,000 cases), also from Diageo, is made by Rosenblum Cellars, with a lineup that includes a Red Blend, White Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, with suggested retail prices of $12 to $14; Shaw-Ross Int’l. Importers’ Chateau d’Eslans line of French roses, retailing for above-premium prices, notched sales of 50,000 cases; Soleil Mimosa (35,000 cases), from Southwest Wines in New Mexico, combines brut sparkling wine with fresh-squeezed orange juice to get a pre-mixed Mimosa (about $11 retail); the above-premium-priced Seven Falls label, from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington State, hit 41,000 cases for its line of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay; Vineyard Brands’ Ernesto Catena (32,000 cases), which highlights an above-premium-priced Malbec from Argentina; and finally Eppa Superfruit Sangria (55,000 cases), from Deutsch, which boasts a certified organic label for the real antioxidant fruit juices (pomegranate, acai, blueberry and blood orange) it blends with Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (about $12 per bottle).

Treasury Wine Estates numbers four new Rising Stars on this list. Be wines appeals to female consumers with wines such as a Pink Moscato labeled “Flirty,” a Red Blend labeled, “Tempting,” and a Riesling labeled “Radiant.” The wines, which retal for about $8, sold 93,000 cases last year. The Australian/New Zealand import, 19 Crimes (33,000 cases and named for list of crimes that would get English criminals shipped off to Australia) features a Red Blend and Shiraz priced above $10; The Skinny Vine (29,000 cases), highlighting low alcohol, lower calorie California wines offering “flavor that flatters”, with a Slim Chardonnay, Thin Zin, Mini Moscato, all selling for about $10; and Colby (23,000 cases), a Red Blend of California Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Merlot and Petit Sirah. The brand, which sells for about $10 per bottle, supports charities that promote heart health.

Other new Rising Stars include Save Me San Francisco, with sales of 95,000 cases. Launched by the band Train, the line features several wines, priced about $12, named for the band’s songs, such as California 37 Cabernet Sauvignon, Hella Fine Merlot, Drops of Jupiter Red, Soul Sister Pinot Noir and Calling All Angels Chardonnay. And in its first full year on the market, Pernod Ricard’s Deadbolt posted sales of 40,000 cases. With a suggested retail of $15, Deadbolt features a ripe and tasty Red Winemakers Blend as well as a White Winemakers Blend.

From Diageo’s Chateau & Estate Wines comes the new Rising Stars Once Upon a Vine (32,000 cases) and Velvet Crush (20,000 cases), both in the initial year on the market. The Once Upon a Vine line has labels reminiscent of fairy tales, such as The Big Bad Red Blend, The Lost Slipper Sauvignon Blanc and The Fairest Chardonnay, priced about $14, and Enchanted Woods bubbly, at $13. Velvet Crush is a fruit-forward, easy drinking lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and a Red Blend from California’s central Coast, at above-premium prices. St. Michelle Wine Estates also counts two new wines on the list. O Wines (30,000 cases) features a Chardonnay and a Red wine blend selling for about $11. The “O” in the name stands for “opportunity,” as each purchase contributes to an organization that supports at-risk, low-income young women. And Anew (28,000 cases) is a Columbia Valley Riesling selling for about $12.

For its part, E&J Gallo also boasts two new Rising Stars in the first full year on the market. Dark Horse wines (30,000 cases) includes a Chardonnay, a Big Red Blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon, all in the under $10 price range, while Carnivor is a mid-priced California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Remaining new Rising Stars include Epica (26,000 cases), imported from the Vina san Pedro Wine Group in Chile, which includes a portfolio of mid-priced varietal wines; Butternut (24,000 cases), a mid-priced California Chardonnay sourced from several different vineyards; Tinto Negro (21,000 cases), a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina; Garnet (21,000 cases), a line of California Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay; and The Wine Group’s 10 Spain, which posted sales of 20,000 cases in its first year on the market.

Wine Established Growth Brands

The Wine Established Growth Brand category focuses on top-selling, high-volume wine brands that have shown consistent growth over each of the past four years. These are some of the industry’s powerhouse brands that help comprise the backbone of wine sales in the U.S. This year, there are 14 brands represented compared to 9 that made the list last year. Clearly, a number of best-selling wines in the U.S. did not qualify, primarily because they had a sales decline for at least one year between 2009 and 2012.

The top-volume Established Growth brand is the well-known Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, with a lineup of more than a dozen value-priced California wines, which climbed to sales of just under 9 million 9-liter cases last year. The wines from Cupcake Vineyards (3.15 million cases) moved over from the Fast Track last year. Cupcake’s extensive portfolio of whites, reds and sparkling wines are sourced from California as well as from most of the world’s major wine-producing regions.

E&J Gallo s has three high-volume brands represented here. Wycliff, primarily known for its value-priced sparkling wines, eclipsed 2.9 million cases in 2013; Liberty Creek, a line of value-priced, fast-moving 1.5 liter varietals, registered sales of 2.35 million cases; and Mirassou, an extensive portfolio of California varietals, garnered sales just north of 1 million cases.

Returning to the Established Growth category is Trinchero Family Estate’s Menage a Trois lineup. Usually sold for $10 and up, the line features Red Table Wine, White Table Wine, Rose, Chardonnay, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The brand hit sales of more than 2.2 million cases. Trinchero Family Estates is also represented here by Sycamore Lane, featuring a line of value California varietals (665,000 cases).

Once again, the highest percentage gainer among the Established Growth Brands list includes the premium-priced J. Lohr Estates, which notched a 18.0% gain, to more than 1.4 million cases.

Constellation counts two new brands here. Estancia Estates generated sales of 935,000 cases in 2013, a 6.9% gain. The Monterey, CA line features a wide array of varietals and other offerings in three tiers with prices ranging from mid- to superpremium. And imported from Tuscany, Ruffino’s well-known Chianti saw sales increase 9.8% last year to 900,000 cases.

Moving over from the Fast Track is DFV’s Gnarly Head line of mid-priced wines, with the brand growing to 662,000 cases.

From Spain, Shaw-Ross’ Real Sangria returns to the Established Growth Brands list, with sales totaling 550,000 cases, while Wente Vineyards, with its extensive portfolio of premium to superpremium wines, also is a returning member. The brand gained an impressive 15.7% in 2013, to attain sales of 480,000 cases.

Wine Comeback Brands

This category recognizes those wine brands of significant volume that saw sales declines two years ago (2012), but which rebounded in 2013. This increase, however, must result in sales totals that are at least equal to or greater than the 2011 sales totals. This year there are three Wine Comeback Brands. The value-focused Cavit wine, imported from Italy by Palm Bay International, features its popular Pinot Grigio as well as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, Teroldego and Cabernet Sauvignon. The sold more than 3.55 million cases in 2013, reversing it 2012 sales decline.

Gekkeikan Sake, from Sidney Frank Importing, likewise rebounded in 2103 from a slightly down year in 2012. The best-selling sake in the U.S., Gekkeikan just released Suzaku, its first-ever Junmai Ginjo-Shu or “Ginjo” to be introduced here. The brand sold 450,000 cases last year. Finally, Brazin Cellars Old Vine Zinfandels, produced in Lodi, CA, also reversed a tiny decline in 2012 with 2013 sales of 34,000 cases.


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