A Toast to Private Label Wine

Increased wine sales are nothing to sniff at. Discounters like Lidl and Aldi are making store brand wines not only acceptable, but preferable for price and quality. Judith Kolenburg in Amsterdam previews PLMA’s 2018 Salute to Excellence Wine Awards where more than 30 retailers received recognition for private label achievements.

Judith Kolenburg
June 2018

Wine, wine, wine. Who would have thought that this most wonderful of nature’s creations would become an important weapon in the retail marketplace. 

Supermarkets and discounters have used their private label ranges to compete for customers for years. But now, the battle for the consumer is being played out in the wine department where retailers have discovered that reds and whites and roses can build store traffic. 

How did supermarket wines become so important? 

German discounters Aldi and Lidl played a big role in making wine accessible for everyone, with wines offered for as little as 5 dollars a bottle. In addition, they made a strategic decision to promote wine to lure new customers into the stores. With good, often local, buying teams and large purchase volumes, they offered high-quality wines at amazing prices. Not surprisingly, they also won many medals at world-famous wine competitions like the International Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards.

The rise of the discounters forced traditional retailers to review their own wine ranges, strategy and pricing. They turned to private label to create wines and styles of wine that are tailored to what their customers are looking for. With private label, they manage and control the whole process and can choose every element about the wine to keep ahead of trends.

Tesco, which has been a major wine retailer for years, launched an innovative low-alcohol wine range to keep up with customers’ demand for lighter drinks using a new special technique that maintains the taste. French Système U sells organic wine without sulfites under its own brand Le Bousquet for consumers that are allergic.

The same strategy is now coming to America. Aldi and Lidl are using their private label wines to attract customers while Costco, with its Kirkland brand, is creating smiles and nods from its customers. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, among many others are developing award-winning wines. Even 7-11 has gone into the private label wine business.

The marketplace is changing, too. While wine cannot be sold in supermarkets in every state, the trend is unmistakable. In California, Nielsen reports that 85% of all wine it tracks is purchased at a supermarket. Texas, Illinois, and Michigan are moving in the same direction.

So which supermarkets are offering the best wines?

In order to determine which supermarkets are doing the best job of creating the best private label wines, PLMA established the International Salute to Excellence Wine Awards three years ago. In April each year, Masters of Wine, sommeliers and wine experts meet in Amsterdam for a two-day tasting event. Last month, the wine panels blind-tasted, compared and tested 300 own brand wines from 38 retailers from 13 countries, including America.

56 awards were given out for best quality and best value own brand wines.  A quick look at the winners reveals that French retailers took away 12 awards, discounters Aldi and Lidl again did well, winning 9 awards, and British retailers were third with 7 awards. Aldi U.S. won best quality for its Broken Clouds Chardonnay. Costco won best quality for its Kirkland Signature Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon.

As a member of this year’s tasting panel, I can tell you that I enjoyed every sipfull. Cheers! I’m Judith Kolenburg for PLMAlive!

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