The “Hot Brands” List Touts Top Tier Wines And Spirits

This year’s roster shows the emergence of spirits-based RTDs.

Market Watch Magazine has unveiled its annual list of “Hot Brands” award winners, recognizing the fastest-growing brands across the wine, spirits, and RTD categories. In order to qualify for Hot Brand status, a brand must have shown double-digit growth year over year from 2021-2023, be an established player with at least 15% growth in 2023, or be a top ten brand with at least 5% growth in 2023 and 15% growth since 2020. All imported wine and spirits brands must have a minimum volume of 200,000 cases, while domestic wines and RTDs must meet a minimum of 250,000 cases.

The industry experienced headwinds in 2023 as consumer trends continued to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Those challenges resulted in a smaller number of honorees, with just 14 spirits brands earning Hot Brand status in 2024, less than half of last year’s crop. But despite the number of brands having decreased significantly since 2023, this year’s honorees still showcase the consumer excitement around the hottest categories within the spirits industry. 

Tequila and whiskey still dominate the spirits field, accounting for a staggering 80% of this year’s spirits Hot Brands roster. The five Tequilas on this year’s list are Don Julio, Lunazul, Teremana, Milagro, and Espolón. Of the six whiskey brands, four were American whiskeys: Woodford Reserve, Ole Smoky, Buffalo Trace, and Old Forester. Crown Royal Salted Caramel from Canada and Buchanan’s Scotch whiskey were the only imported brands that earned a nod this year, with Irish and other imported whiskies falling off the list entirely. 

Tito’s vodka continues to dominate the spirits Hot Brand list at over 12 million cases. While Tito’s did fall slightly this year, it’s still going strong and leading the vodka category by a wide margin. Other notable spirits Hot Brands include Campari-owned Aperol, and whiskey brand 99 from Sazerac. 

When it comes to spirits-based RTDs, this year’s Hot Brands list reflects the current craze for the category. Twenty brands earned Hot Brand status in 2024, with Cutwater, Beatbox, Monaco, Whiteclaw, Surfside, Carbliss, Nutrl, The Finnish Long Drink, and Buzzballz Chillers all in the top ten. Gallo-owned High Noon Sun Sips earned the No. 1 spot, depleting 21.4 million cases in 2023 and blowing the competition out of the water in terms of growth. The brand, which markets vodka- and tequila-based flavored sodas, has grown to be the biggest spirits label in the U.S. by volume. 

While High Noon took the top spot, Southern Champion had the highest number of entries on the list, with all three of its Buzzballz variants (Buzzballz Chillers, Buzzballs Cocktails, and Biggies Buzzballz) all earning the honor. Other notable mentions on the RTD roster include Fresca RTDs, Jack Daniels RTDs, Truly, Mom Water, On The Rocks, Stateside, Malibu RTDs, and Sunny D.

California table wine as always had the most entries among this year’s wine Hot Brands, with 11 brands from the list hailing from the Golden state. Josh Cellars from Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits took the top spot, with 5.5 million cases and 13.9% growth in 2023. The brand is by far the largest wine Hot Brand, excluding its Prosecco and Reserve offerings, and it has added 1.2 million cases in the past two years alone. 

Trinchero Family Estates, Delicato Family Wines, and E. & J. Gallo all had multiple brands on the domestic list, including labels like Vendange, Bread & Butter, BotaBox, and Taylor. Trinchero had the only non-alcoholic wine, Fre, which capitalizes on the better-for-you trend where consumers increasingly gravitating. Fellow honoree Seaglass, also part of the Trinchero stable, earned the title of Wine Brand of The Year in Market Watch’s 2023 Leaders issue this past September. 

Four imported brands also made the list. La Marca Prosecco led the way at 3.2 million cases, followed closely by Whitehaven, also part of the Gallo portfolio. CIV USA Inc.-owned Opera Prima and Josh Prosecco, owned by Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits, came in at No. 3 and No. 4., respectively, rounding out the list of 2024 Hot Brands.