Favorite

Wine trends in Central Arkansas 

Sweet wines, box wines and pretty labels sell well.

What's new in the wine business in Central Arkansas? A lot of things that wine snobs probably don't want anything to do with. Take the emergence of sweet wines.

"It's one of the most amazing things that's happened in the last six to seven years," said Jerry Harrod, vice president of sales for Moon Distributing, one of the larger alcohol distributors in the state. Moscato, a sweet, semi-sparkling wine made from the Muscat variety of grape, has been especially popular.

"I think it's a lot of new wine drinkers who're coming in for the first time and want to experience wine," Harrod said of those driving the Moscato boom. "Those people will eventually gravitate to dryer wines as they continue to consume wines."

James Cripps and partner Bruce Cochran built their six-year-old wine and spirits distribution business, Custom Beverage, around a red sparkling wine similar to a Moscato called Rosa di Rosa.

"Six years ago you couldn't give a sweet wine away, and now it's brought so many people into the wine consumer category," Cripps said. "[The new consumers] never drank wine that they liked before and suddenly they found something that, just because it's sweet, they can drink. I think it's part of Coca-Cola culture."

Another explanation for its popularity? Hip-hop. Rappers have long extolled high-end drinks like Cristal and Courvoisier. For reasons unknown, in recent years they've gravitated to the more affordable Moscato. Drake, Gucci Mane, Kanye West and Soulja Boy have all name-dropped the wine. Nelly's crew, the St. Lunatics, developed its own brand, Freaky Moscato. There's been some backlash. A blogger on Bon Appetit wrote a post last year entitled, "I'm Sick of Rappers Influencing Wine Sales."

Bargain hunters and people looking to take wine on-the-go are pushing another trend — the emergence of higher-end box wine.

"People are always looking for something consistent for a good price," said Shell Cameron, spirits manager for Central Distributors. "Packaging, as far as being able to take wine places, is really important. Arkansas is an outdoor state. We like a good time on lakes and rivers and go camping. I think that's why box wines have found a niche in Arkansas."

That you can find better quality box wine than in the past makes a big difference too, Cameron said.

When box wines first debuted in the '70s, they were generic and inexpensive, according to David Cone, sales director for Glazer's, the state's largest alcohol distributor. That phase ended with the emergence of Constellation Brand's Black Box in the '90s, he said. "It's their line-up of fine wines, sourced from places like Monterey County. It's not inexpensive — in the $25 to $28 range — until you break it down and realize it's equivalent to four bottles of wine. You don't have to worry about resealing it. It collapses, so no oxygen gets in. And it lasts for weeks."

Central Distributors' Cameron and Moon's Harrod said wine served in Tetra Paks — 500 ml cartons (as compared to 750 ml bottles) that claim to be environmentally friendly and are more portable than glass bottles — are gaining hold in the market, too.

As with any product, branding is important. "Traditionally women have not been the buyers of alcohol, but that's changed industry-wide," said Cameron. Which is why you see wines with names like Simply Naked, Go Girl, Skinny Girl and Naked Grape. Cripps said with so many wine drinkers in their 60s now, the market is really focused on targeting the next generation, the 21 to 35 range. "I get telephone calls about every week from someone who has a new label and a new way to reach the younger demographic."

Cripps said he's seeing the hot price point for wine as somewhere in the $9.99 to $25 range. Oddly, he said there's a drop off until $60 and above. "I have wines that are $150, and they do really well. Try to sell a $50 wine — that's the tough one."

Traditionalists don't have to worry about the culture of wine shifting beneath their feet too much. Cripps said he saw numbers for wine-industry-wide recently and chardonnay and cabernet were still the top sellers. But Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are gaining ground. "They're still not quite on top, but they're certainly getting closer. I think that's typically a younger drinker."

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

  • Why can't you buy Yuengling, or all sorts of other beers, in Arkansas?

    May 21, 2014
    Alcohol is one of the most heavily regulated commodities sold in the United States, with each state setting up its own regulatory system. In some states — known as alcoholic beverage control states — the state itself is the only wholesaler. Arkansas instead uses a semi-privatized "three-tier system." The impetus for a new beer coming into the state could come from any of the tiers. A brewery might decide it wants to enter the market and try to find a wholesaler to distribute the beer, either statewide or in a given area. But sometimes it doesn't make economic sense for a brewery. /more/
  • Rock Town Distillery soon to be up and running

    June 25, 2010
    Phil Brandon spent the morning unloading giant metal pieces — square tubs, long cylinders affixed with pressure gauges, large copper contraptions that called to mind steampunk submarines. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The First Amendment, Yo Edition

    The latest in the legal fight to stop a law that would prevent Planned Parenthood from performing abortions in Arkansas, the cancellation of a rap show in Little Rock and its First Amendment implications, a stunning investigative report on drug court defendants being forced to work for free for Arkansas poultry companies and bellicose Tom Cotton — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Come with the Arkansas Times to the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

    After several years of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro hosting benefit concerts to raise money for the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home, this year the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival debuts in Dyess just outside the Cash homeplace. And of course the Arkansas Times is chartering a bus to be there. The lineup is spectacular: Kris Kristofferson (one of the greatest songwriters of all-time easily), Rosanne Cash, Joanne Cash and Tommy Cash and Buddy Jewel.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Arkansas State Fair opens the midway

    and much more.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • 2016 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

    A few of our favorite things.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Visionary Arkansans 2016

    They make an impact.
    • Sep 15, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation