Heading for a White Wine Summer

White and sparkling wines look to be on many people's menus over the summer months.

As the warmer weather settles in for the Northern Hemisphere summer, consumers are turning away from big reds.

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| White and sparkling wines look to be on many people’s menus over the summer months.

Summer is here and white-wine producers will be raising a glass in celebration.

Bordeaux producers might not, however. Despite all the buzz created by the recent En Primeur campaign, interest in Bordeaux fell away in May, as did the price of one of the region’s great grapes.

Looking at search data for May, overall global interest in red wine is falling slightly, while white searches are booming. White wine’s share of total searches increased by 16 percent against the same period last year, while red wine’s share declined by 6 percent.

Sparkling wine producers will be feeling particularly bubbly, as sparkling wine’s share of total searches rose by an impressive 22 percent, while rosé search share was also up by 8 percent as consumers in the Northern Hemisphere strap in summer.

In the world’s largest wine market, the US, the figures were broadly similar, but there was a much larger jump in the share of rosé searches (up 15 percent) and there was also a marked increase for dessert wines, which saw their share of total searches rise by 7 percent, as the US showed that its famous sweet tooth also extends to wine. That jump in interest in dessert wines is down to some unlikely heroes: while the likes of Port, Sherry and Madeira all saw their search shares drop, Muscat (up 72 percent) and Vidal (up 44 percent) took up the slack.

Grape expectations

Looking at individual grape varieties, there were stark differences between global searches and searches from the US. Globally, Cabernet Sauvignon saw its share of total searches fall by 13 percent compared to May 2021, but that drop was just 2 percent in the US. Pinot Noir was also a point of difference: its share was up 12 percent globally and hadn’t shifted at all in the US, remaining at 12.9 percent of all searches.

Merlot searches were flat globally, while they rose slightly – total share up 5 percent – ​​in the US. Syrah and Zinfandel had mixed fortunes, with Syrah’s share of searches falling by 13 percent globally and 21 percent in the US, while Zinfandel’s share was a symmetrical drop 21 percent globally and 13 percent in the US.

The three major white grapes all improved their share of total searches; Chardonnay was up 20 percent globally and up 8 percent in the US, while Riesling improved its share by 8 percent globally and in the US. Sauvignon Blanc proved more resistible globally, however, with a rise in its search share of 10 percent, while its share of US searches rose by a whopping 27 percent.

Focusing on the US market, there were some heavy drop-offs in interest when looking at searches by region of origin. California maintains its grip on the US market’s wine imagination, although its share of total searches fell by 3.5 percent compared to May 2021; most of the fall was down to a drop in interest in California whites, which saw their search share fall 7.7 percent.

Burgundy enjoyed a happy May, with its US search share rising by 6.7 percent, putting it above Bordeaux, which saw its share fall by 16 percent. Burgundy accounted searches for 11.5 percent of all US in May, while Bordeaux only managed 11 percent. Tuscany, the Rhône, Washington and South Australia also saw their search share drop by 10, 11.5, 15 and 19 percent, respectively, while the big winners were Mendoza (up 26 percent), Veneto (up 22 percent) and Champagne (up 16 percent) percent).

Growth in white-wine searches in the US were mostly driven by big increases in search share for Veneto (up a shade less than 50 percent), Piedmont (up 20 percent) and Marlborough (up 16.6 percent).

So what about prices for all these wines that are being searched for? Well, it’s a bit up-and-down, but one thing is for sure – expensive Merlot is off the table this summer.

Looking at click-through data (where a user clicks through from Wine-Searcher to a merchant site, indicating an intention to purchase), the prices of the wines people are looking to buy are generally similar to last year. Globally, the average click-through price for red wines is down by 4 percent, while white wines are up 1 percent. Sparkling wines saw a 3 percent rise, while average rosé click-through prices fell by 4 percent. In the US, that rosé average fell by 15 percent.

But it’s the individual grapes where the fun stuff lies – while Cabernet Sauvignon’s search share might be down, the average price people are prepared to pay for it is up by 8 percent globally and 9 percent in the US. Syrah is also in favor among those looking to spend a little more, with a rise in average click-through price of 17 percent globally and 12 percent in the US. However, the bottom appears to have fallen out of the Merlot market, with the average click-through price falling 72 percent globally and 60 percent in the US.

It looks like it’s going to be a long, white summer.

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