Beverage alcohol retailers are gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend by running print and online promotions, hosting tastings, and shoring up inventory to meet demand. “We see a shift during November toward cooler climate white wines from France, Italy, Germany, and New Zealand during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving,” says Wine.com founder and executive vice president Mike Osborn. “The food pairings of aromatic and crisp white wines are well-known among our customers.”
With the biggest wine-purchasing time of the year approaching, Wine.com is marking the occasion with online discounts and shopping suggestions for wine lovers and gift givers. The online retailer also has holiday shopping suggestions, such as “Most Gifted Wines of the Year,” “Wines Worth the Splurge,” and “Wines You’ve Never Tried.” Customer favorites include the 2021 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay ($35 a 750-ml.), 2021 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay Arthur ($45 a 750-ml.), 2021 Archery Summit Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($50), and 2022 Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($22).
In addition to crisp white wines, rosés appear to maintain traction during the cooler months. “Rosé still wines, favored most by our Millennial and Gen-Z customers, see modest bumps for the holidays,” Osborn says. “Rosé wines have finally become a year-round favorite and not just for summer.”
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend offers multiple wine entertaining opportunities. “Leading up to Thanksgiving, it’s challenging to decipher the exact occasions that customers are buying for—it might be a Wednesday night Friendsgiving, an actual Thanksgiving dinner, or a holiday party weeks away,” Osborn says. “The one thing that’s clear from seeing the order volume is customers are in the entertaining spirit during November.”
For some beverage alcohol retailers, Thanksgiving eve is one of the most important days of the year. “The day before Thanksgiving is our second busiest day of the year. It’s very important we come out swinging because it’s going to set the tone for the next six weeks,” says Mat Dinsmore, manager of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado, adding that December 23 is the store’s busiest day. “Holiday time is about 40% of our overall annual sales volume.”
Colorado independent beverage alcohol retailers face unprecedented challenges this season as a new law enacted March 1 allows grocery and other stores with a retail beer license to sell wine. “We are trying everything we can to engage the consumers why they need to shop at a place that has service, selection, and price—not just convenience,” Dinsmore says. “We won’t know how that shapes out until about January 1.”
Dinsmore is looking to help drive business with wine tastings and newspaper ads, as well as digital and social media marketing. “We are pulling out all of the stops, especially with wine being sold in grocery stores,” he says, citing a bowling for turkey event in collaboration with Wild Turkey ($25 a 750-ml. for Wild Turkey 101). “We do bottle engravings where we can. Wholesale partners are helping us as well with brand ambassadors and hand sells.”
When it comes to pairing wines with Thanksgiving meals, Wilbur’s customers skew toward red Burgundy, Pinot Noir, German Riesling and Gewürztraminer, California Chardonnay, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. “We sell a lot of California Chardonnay and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with holiday fare. A lot of people call for it. It’s a safe bet,” Dinsmore says. For Thanksgiving, patrons splurge on Rombauer Chardonnay ($45 a 750-ml.) and Sauvignon Blanc ($30) and Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay ($25). “Some people will drink red Zinfandel if they are not doing traditional holiday fare, such as prime rib or roast beef,” Dinsmore adds. “People also love Beaujolais Nouveau and are excited about it.”
While all varietals of Black Box and Bota Box (both $20 a 3-liter) have traction at Wilbur’s around Thanksgiving, the retail pricing sweet spot for a 750-ml. of wine sold leading up to the holiday is in the $13-$18 range. Sparkling wines shine in that range, but some consumers trade up. “We will sell a ton of Prosecco with La Marca ($18) being the category leader,” Dinsmore says. “Natale Verga ($14) is a little bit off the beaten path but also does well for us. Among sparkling wines, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut ($45) continues to be king.”
At Wine.com, the outlook for the supply chain this holiday season is much stronger than the previous two years. “The constraints of previous years on Champagne, for instance, have subsided, and customers should have access to their favorite brands and an extensive list of interesting sparkling wines,” Osborn says.
Nevertheless, retailers appear to be approaching the holidays with caution. “We’re taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach by staying nimble and responsive,” Osborn says. “We don’t take inventory bets on products or price points. Our wholesale partners can fulfill our orders every day of the month. I’d expect a slightly lower average bottle price but higher quantity orders and for consumers to wait until the last minute for gift buying—a multi-year trend we have been seeing.”