Americans may be feeling financially constrained these days. And they may also be drinking less, as exemplified by the booming Dry January movement. But that’s not stopping them from spending $21 on a bottle of wine.
That’s the price that has emerged as the consumer “sweet spot,” according to a new survey of more than 1,000 wine-industry professionals. And the figure is higher than a year ago, when the same survey, done by the wine-promotion company Colangelo & Partners and research firm Wine Opinions, found that $20 was the hot price tag. To be clear, wines priced $10 and under — the so-called “jug” or “popular premium” categories — still account for the bulk of U.S. wine purchases. But a growing number of consumers are trading up — and that’s where the $21 “sweet spot” figure comes into play. “It’s where the industry sees the most excitement and enthusiasm,” said Juliana Colangelo of Colangelo & Partners. Wine professionals point to a variety of factors that explain why consumers are willing to spend $21 for a bottle. For starters, many Americans have become more sophisticated about wine and can talk knowingly of a range of varietals and styles in a way that was unheard of a generation ago. And with that level of sophistication comes that desire to trade up, wine pros say. “They want to expand their horizons,” said Leo Le, beverage director of Momoya Soho, a New York City restaurant. Adam Levy, who organizes wine competitions in cities across the world and heads up the Alcohol Professor website, said that he believes people are entertaining more at home, given the COVID-era hesitancy about eating at restaurants. And when they entertain, they’re willing to spend a little more, he explained, especially given that prices for bottles are still much lower at retailers versus restaurants. Levy also said that wine prices have generally been increasing, due to supply-chain issues and other factors, so consumers who want to drink better will have to pay more by extension. “There’s so much pressure on wine producers,” he said. Finally, Colangelo makes the point that natural wines have become very popular, especially with younger consumers. These wines are typically more expensive, so it stands to reason that the pricing “sweet spot” will go higher over time. “You don’t really get a naturally produced wine for less than $20,” she said.