While overall imported table wine depletions were flat at 67 million cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank, the category’s premium end is painting a much brighter picture. In 2016, the U.S. market’s top 10 premium-plus imports defined as being at least $10 a 750ml., on average—collectively posted a 12.6% gain to nearly 8.3 million cases. A bevy of upscale Italian offerings, as well as several super premium New Zealand brands, have helped drive the segment’s rapid progress.
Riboli Family Wine Estates’ Stella Rosa brand—the market leader among premium-plus imports—surpassed 1.3 million cases last year. The Italian range, best known for its sweet and semisweet taste profiles, has averaged about 28% annual growth since 2010. Also hailing from Italy is Constellation’s Ruffino, which is fast closing in on the million case mark (excluding its Prosecco, which accounts for another 300,000 cases). The brand’s success has been built on its Chianti business, which comprises about a 20% share of the Chianti category and nearly half the luxury Chianti segment.
Other leading premiumplus Italian players include E.&J. Gallo’s Ecco Domani and Santa Margherita USA's namesake range, both of which were flat last year. On the other hand, Palm Bay’s Roscato and Zonin USA's Castello del Poggio are both clearly in expansion mode, with each carving out well over 20% growth in 2016.“We’re pretty confident Roscato is going to be our next millioncase brand,” says Palm Bay president and CEO Marc Taub.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand category continues to thrive stateside, with segment leader Kim Crawford eclipsing the million case mark last year. “We see great growth opportunity for Kim Crawford in the on premise by the glass segment,” says Julie Rossman, marketing director, imports at Constellation. Currently, Kim Crawford does more than 80% of its business off premise. Fellow Kiwi player Oyster Bay also continues to rise by double digits, and Kim Crawford portfolio mate Nobilo is likewise benefiting from the buzz around New Zealand, surpassing 600,000 cases on nearly 10% growth last year.
While Italy and New Zealand clearly dominate the premium top 10, by the end of the year Australia’s 19 Crimes could also potentially join the fold. The Treasury Wine Estates label doubled in size to more than a half million cases in the U.S. last year, and TWE CEO Michael Clarke recently told SND that further extensions to the upscale Aussie brand are on the way.