Despite pricing pressure and ongoing supply chain issues for imports, retail sales remain brisk for Sauvignon Blanc this summer and momentum is expected to continue into the cooler months. “Sauvignon Blanc continues to grow for us during warmer summer months,” says Mat Dinsmore, owner of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado. “Although there is demand year-round for Sauvignon Blanc, that wasn’t always the case.”
Led by offerings from New Zealand, France, and California, Sauvignon Blanc wines appear to hit the pricing and quality sweet spots for many consumers. “The main trend driving our Sauvignon Blanc sales are the approachability of the varietal along with the refreshing taste that makes it an easier segue into wine for many non-wine drinkers,” Dinsmore says. “Obviously, there are a wide range of taste profiles, but they are so refreshing during warmer months.”
At McCabes Wine & Spirits in Manhattan, Sauvignon Blanc is popular with customers. “Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t need promoting, though we do try to steer guests to Sauvignon Blanc from regions they might not consider for the grape, such as Oregon or Italy,” says store owner Daniel Mesznik.
Top-selling Sauvignon Blanc wines at McCabes include Oyster Bay ($16), Kim Crawford ($20), Mahu Sauvignon Blanc ($10), Domaine de la Motte ($15), and Domaine de Sacy Sancerre ($29), which recently sold out. “In-store tastings are a key component for us,” Mesznik says. “We strive to make our store about education and experience.”
At Wilbur’s, super-premium Sauvignon Blancs are big sellers. “Sauvignon Blanc wines priced below $20 a 750-ml. are strong and New Zealand continues to be our strongest country for the category,” Dinsmore explains. “Kim Crawford 2017 ($15 a 750-ml.), Matua ($13), and a wide range of white Bordeauxs—not one brand leads the way, although competitively priced domestic ones are doing ok.”
The supply chain, however, continues to have problems. “Imports are the biggest challenge, and price increases create a challenge as customers start trading down in price points,” Dinsmore says. “We are struggling with out-of-stocks, delays, and price increases, which have the possibility of slowing some categories. Supply from California seems steady, although New Zealand and France are a bit harder.”
In Manhattan, McCabes also faces supply chain obstacles, but availability issues for one brand or region can create new opportunities for other brands. “The biggest challenge comes from Sancerre. It’s a struggle to keep continuity of stock. We’re looking elsewhere in the Loire Valley—Quincy, Menetou-Salon, Touraine,” Mesznik says. “The opportunity is to both introduce guests to Sauvignon Blanc from regions other than Sancerre and also potentially save them a few bucks. The value and juice can be tremendous.”
Sauvignon Blanc has increasingly become a go-to retail wine for many consumers. “Sauvignon Blanc is our No. 3 white wine segment, with Chardonnays from around the globe dominating and Italian Pinot Grigio showing strong sales due to a more affordable price point,” Dinsmore says. “Sauvignon Blanc has a very long runway for growth, although pricing pressures have the possibility of slowing the category. Only time will tell.”
Mesznik notes the future of Sauvignon Blanc appears healthy, and retailers have an important role to play. “It’s incumbent on retailers like us to introduce and educate guests to Sauvignon Blanc from beyond the normal regions, such as New Zealand and Sancerre, where there is great value and more supply,” he says.