Saturday, September 19, 2020

ADVERTISING: Advertorial­ — GEORGE BALLING: Consumption patterns

| July 29, 2020 1:00 AM

Consumer wine consumption has a natural rhythm to it. Varietals come and go in popularity, as does winemaking style. All but the most die-hard varietal loyalists will change their preferences with the seasons. There are also clearly times of the year when all of us will consume a bit more wine or add to our stock, as it is our prime time for entertaining. Add in how most every palate evolves as we go through life and sure enough, as a wine industry professional you can pick out the changes.

Right now, buying is up for home consumption. Even though restaurants are again open here in Idaho, we can tell that more of us are dining and entertaining at home. Typical purchases that are a bottle or two are now six, and a six pack most times has turned into a case. While the frequency of customer visits is pretty consistent, the size of the purchases tells us that many of us are simply redirecting their wine budget from restaurant to home consumption.

We have seen a larger than normal shift to seasonal varietals. This is also an indicator that many of us are staying home more. Most wine consumers will purchase at levels geared toward what they are going through at a regular pace. If we were not expecting to consume bottles that are more seasonally driven then we would not buy quite as many. It is why we see dry rosé sales increase heavily a bit before we hit the warm weather, and why they start to slow at the end of August before the weather starts to cool.

This year, though, we have seen heavier than normal purchases of dry rosé, the lighter-bodied, unoaked whites and leaner reds that are naturally more friendly with food from the grill. While we always shift the shop collection to respond to these seasonal variations, we have been surprised this summer at the degree of the changes.

The number of wine consumers buying dry rosé continues to grow this year. In addition to the return customers who have enjoyed dry, pink wine for years, we are still seeing new customers flock to this most popular of summer wines. We agree, dry rosé can’t be beat during the warm weather. We have noticed, too, that folks are consistently looking for new and different rosé. While our buyers may get a bottle or two of their traditional favorite, most are consistently asking for what is new.

European wines also continue to see a surge in demand. Across the board — from white to rosé to red “Old World” — wines are seeing increased interest. It is crystal clear to us when we look at the orders in our Friday Night Flights program. This is our weekly email wine special and when we feature wines from Europe the demand is almost always larger. I don’t think this is simply explained by price either, since we started “the flights,” the program has always been more of a value driven offering so we try to keep the prices of the bottles fairly consistent. When we feature French, Italian or Spanish though, orders have been running about 50% above offerings with domestic and “New World” choices.

One consumption pattern that we are seeing here at our own shop that is consistent with the rest of the country is the increase in year-round sales of all types of sparkling wines. Prosecco, Champagne, Cava and domestic sparkling are all seeing increased demand throughout the year. We like this trend as we find ourselves that well-made, dry, “bubbly” is as lovely and refreshing on a hot summer afternoon as it is festive during the more traditional holiday season.

While the progression is slow, we are seeing an increased openness to alternative packaging. Canned wine is seeing interest especially during the summer due to their cooler friendly abilities. At a recent fundraiser for the Kootenai Humane Society, we featured, for the first time, a box wine! It was a huge hit. Tasters that day responded to the wine clearly for how it tasted but when given the option to buy it by the box (a 4-bottle equivalent) they bought the box.

We love our job in our own little part of the global wine industry. The constant changes and emergence of trends and patterns is fascinating to watch. We will continue to report them as they come up.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country.

After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.