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Wine direct shipping ebbs but remains above pre-pandemic levels, report says

Consumers who moved to getting wine shipped directly to their homes when they couldn’t or were reluctant to visit the vintners or enjoy a glass in restaurants and bars appear to be still doing so to some degree two and a half years since the pandemic began, according to a new report.

The overall volume of wine shipped across the country in the first half of this year (3.7 million 9-liter cases) was down 9% from the same pace last year, Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics reported late Monday.

But that followed a 27% annual jump in cases shipped directly to consumers in 2020, particularly in the early months of the pandemic, when a number of winery tasting rooms and restaurants were shuttered under public health orders.

Meanwhile, the total value of the cases shipped by the half-year point was up 3% from a year before, at $1.95 billion.

“The decline in volume is not that unexpected considering the record highs of the previous two years, seasonal patterns and the recovery of the on-premise sector where consumers are back to buying wines they may have been purchasing via DtC,” said Andrew Adams of Wines Vines Analytics in the news release. “And while it’s very encouraging to see shipment value remain positive, there is growing concern among wineries that challenges in the wider U.S. economy may hinder value growth through the second half of the year.”

One interpretation for fewer cases shipped but higher dollar value overall is less reliance on discounting to move bottles.

The report found average bottle price in the first half climbed to $43.78, up 14% from a year before.

“Interestingly, the regions with the highest priced bottles also showed the biggest increases in price from 2021 to 2022,” the report said.

The average price of a bottle from Napa County was $79.74, up 20%.

“With the average bottle price increasing, this indicates growth is being led by higher priced wines as the trends of the pandemic and past two years ebb,” Adams told the Business Journal in an email.

Sonoma County, Oregon, the Central Coast, Washington and the rest of California also saw an increase in bottle prices.

Sonoma County shipped-wine value in the first half was $410.9 million, which is 4% less than in same period in 2021, and the case volume was 1.15 million, down 14%. But average bottle price was $29.65, up 11%.

Compared with 2019, Sonoma County shipment volume grew, Adams told the Journal.

“The wineries of Sonoma County enjoyed stunning DtC shipment volume growth in recent years, and while the past six months show that growth slowing leading to a dramatic decline it speaks more to the record highs of the past two years,” Adams said.

For the nation as a whole, the average price for per shipped bottle in the first half of this year was $21.78, down 3% from a year before.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before coming to the Business Journal in 1999, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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