Thanks to expanded growth both nationally and internationally as well as a 1997 bumper harvest in California, vintners ranging from those in France's Bordeaux region to U.S. spirits giant Canandaigua are pushing to grab market share.
"They have to either expand the market or grab share," said Eileen Fredrikson, a partner in Gomberg Fredrikson, a wine consultancy.
Canandaigua Wine Co. this summer will introduce Arbor Mist, a new wine beverage product blending chardonnay and white zinfandel wines with natural fruit flavors of peach, strawberry, raspberry and lime.
Arbor Mist is positioned as a more palatable beverage to compete with beer, wine coolers and cocktails at summer picnics or pool parties.
A $6.5 million print ad effort from Trone Advertising, Greensboro, N.C., breaks Aug. 24, focused on 21 national magazines, ranging from Elle to Family Circle. Ethnic magazines, such as Jet and Essence, are included in the buy.
Ads show grape clusters with the other fruits intermingled; copy reads, "Just what you've been looking for."
Wine industry groups, including the Wine Institute and the California Association of Wine Grape Growers, have lodged complaints with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms about other wines described as natural flavored. BATF currently is considering regulations on other wine and fruit beverages.
"It is quite a very unorthodox product and quite controversial," Ms. Fredrikson said.
Canandaigua also plans a $35 million TV and direct marketing campaign to launch Mystic Cliffs varietals, the first wines from its Riverland Vineyards division, also handled by Trone.
At another end of the spectrum, France's Bordeaux Wine Bureau is doubling ad spending for the next two years to promote its wines. A print campaign from Culver Associates, New York, is tagged "Bordeaux. Always a propos."
While France has seen its share of U.S. wine sales grow, to 1.6 million cases last year, Bordeaux premium wines are trying to ride a wave of acceptance of less expensive California-style varietals.
"We don't feel we can be everything to everybody," said Jacques Thebault, VP-director of marketing for North America at Food & Wines From France, parent of the Bordeaux Wine Bureau. "But we believe there is a great opportunity for us."
He said spending will increase to $2 million for the next two years.
IMPORTS WIN BIGGER SHARES
Along with Bordeaux, other imported wines-especially those from Chile and Australia-have increased market share in the U.S., according to industry executives. "There has been a lot more interest in imports recently," said Martin Johnson, senior VP of California's Robert Mondavi.
Mr. Johnson said imported wines have been growing at 15% to 20% rates, not seen since the 1970s, while the overall table wine market has increased only 5% to 8%.
Mondavi this fall will focus its advertising on a $5 million radio ad effort, from Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif., he said.
"It's incredible, the competition right now," he said. "The marketplace has really heated up. People are recognizing the value of advertising and it's good for the whole industry."