A few years ago, craft beer was the hot new beverage making waves across the country, and then craft soda joined the fray, with big name brands including PepsiCo getting into the craft beverage game. As these drinks have taken flight across the country, winemakers are also finding audiences for their craft-style products, and the craft wine movement is gaining traction all over the world.
“Craft wines are made by artisanal producers who typically create smaller batches and sell them via limited distribution networks, often straight from the winery or from boutique shops,” says Raleigh, N.C.-based wine broker Roy Florence. “They aren’t in hundreds of stores because they want to stay small — that’s the appeal,” he says.
Earlier this year, Illinois Aldermen even approved a new type of liquor license to describe craft wineries, while ALDI debuted a line of craft wines to give fans of the chain’s wine department a non-traditional option. “It’s not sold by grape variety — we haven’t even put grape varieties on the label because we don’t want people to think of the wines in that way, said Mike James, ALDI’s UK Wine Buying Director. “And we haven’t talked about food – this is wine to drink.”
Craft beer led the way
The craft beer market was a $22.3 billion industry in 2015, representing a 12.2% share of the beer market, according to statistics from the Brewers Association. But the wine and beer industries aren’t exactly parallel in their ability to scale production, and winemakers have more of a challenge in meeting the needs of a large market than beer brewers do.
“In many respects, the wine industry would be happy to gain the same type of publicity and sales that these beers have garnered,” Florence says. “The problem is that wine takes twice as long, if not longer, than beer to make, and the ingredients are harder to come by depending on the yearly grape harvest, so small wine producers can’t crank out the same volume as a small beer brewer.”
Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped small wineries from trying to capitalize on the movement, and even home vintners are getting in on the action. Places like City Winery and Fulkerson Winery allow consumers to make their own wines, bottle them and either hand them out to friends or sell them independently. In addition, home winemaking kits can be purchased inexpensively and quickly, allowing wine lovers to get in on the craft movement right from their kitchens.
Ultimately, whether or not the craft wine movement becomes as big as the craft beer, soda or spirits industry will depend on how many small suppliers crop up over the next few years, and whether other big retailers will take ALDI’s cue and start selling craft wine in their establishments as well.
“The American wine market is valued at almost $40 billion, so even a small sliver of that would make the craft wine market very appealing for a small producer,” Florence said.