The Wine Club's annual survey of its customers shows interesting insights into the wine buying habits of `passionate' wine lovers. The Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates report notes that 83% of The Wine Club's customers characterize themselves as wine enthusiasts and wine lovers who know a lot about the wine they are purchasing.

The median dollar amount of their wine purchases is $2,000 a year in retail stores and an additional $500 in wine purchases at restaurants, just about the same as the 1999 survey results. In terms of enjoyment, 59% of those surveyed enjoy wine 5 days a week; 28% of respondents drink wine every day.

This year, the percentage of women responding went up slightly to 20%. Each year, this percentage has gone up about 3% a year. In terms of age, 86% are age 40 or above, with 65% reporting income of over $100,000 per year. In terms of case sales, 44% purchase from 6-15 cases of wine a year; 40% purchase between 16 and 50 cases of wine a year and 3% buy over 50 cases.

With this amount of wine buying, where to put this wine becomes an important factor. 72% of respondents have wine cellars of over 100 bottles; 15% of The Wine Club customers have cellars over 1000 bottles. 89% of wine buyers state that they purchase wines for their cellars, well in advance of consuming wine. In terms of consumption, 8% of respondents say they are drinking less wine than a couple of years ago; 64% say they are drinking the same and 28% say they are drinking more wine. This is much the same as last year's numbers.

Wine purchases are spread over a wide variety of sources. In addition to purchases at The Wine Club, 69% also purchase wines from wineries; 39% from supermarkets, 33% from other club stores, and 10% from internet sales -- double from last year's survey

Red Wine Favorites

When asked what red wine types are most often purchased, respondents note 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Zinfandel, 12% Merlot, 9% Pinot Noir, 6% Bordeaux and 5% Syrah/Shiraz. This is much the same as last year with the Syrah/Shiraz category showing some gains. The ten most popular red wine brands in order of most often mentioned are: Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Ridge, Beaulieu Vineyard, Ravenswood, Rosemount, Rosenblum, Silver Oak, Joseph Phelps and Pine Ridge.

In white wines, 47% mention they purchase Chardonnay most often, followed by 30% for Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Gris/Grigio, 3% Riesling and 2% Viognier. Chardonnay percentages have increased from last year while Gewurztraminer is down. The ten most popular white wine brands in order are: Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, Ferrari-Carano, Mondavi, Chateau St. Jean, Meridian, Kistler, Sanford, Caymus and Columbia Crest.

Favorite Champagne or sparkling wine brands are, in order: Chandon (all brands) Veuve Cliquot, Roederer (all brands), Mumm (all brands), Korbel, Dom Perignon, Schramsberg and Glora Ferrer.

When asked which are the "up-and-coming wineries", respondents mention Pride Mountain, Gallo, Andrew Murray, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Rabbit Ridge, Flowers and Fife.

In response to a question about retail pricing, those surveyed say the maximum retail price they would pay for a Chardonnay (median price reported) is $25; Sauvignon Blanc, $18; Cabernet Sauvignon, $40; Merlot, $25; Pinot Noir, $30; Zinfandel, $25; Bordeaux, $50 and Burgundy, $50.

While many buyers have their favorite brands, a question was asked what would motivate them to purchase a new wine brand never seen before. Leading the list is a wine writer's rating or point score, 39%; salesperson's recommendation, 29%; price, 16%, Appellation, 14% and packaging or floor display, only 1% each.

Spotlight On Growing Regions

Those surveyed have strong opinions on what regions consistently produce the highest overall quality. California Coastal area leads by far with 72% followed by Bordeaux, 15%; Burgundy, 5%; Australia, 4% and Italy 3%. Spain, Argentina and Oregon have 0%.

In terms of growing regions for value, California is 37%; Australia, 25%; Chile, 17%; Italy, 8% and Spain, 6%.

Publications That Influence Buyers

Major wine buyers read wine-oriented publications. Leading the list is the Wine Spectator, 73%; Food & Wine, 35%; Bon Appetit, 31%; Gourmet, 28%, The Wine Advocate, 25%; Wine Enthusiast, 24%; Wine & Spirits, 12% and Connoisseur's Guide, 8%. This is much in line with last year's results.

In terms of general circulation newspaper most read, The Wall Street Journal leads at 42%, up from last year; Los Angeles Times, 23%; USA Today, 22%; San Francisco Chronicle, 21%; New York Times, 19%; Orange County Register, 8% and San Jose Mercury News, 7%.

When dining out, 42% of those surveyed order wine every time, with another 29% ordering most of the time. In terms of bringing their own wine to restaurants, 69% have done so, but not as a matter of course.

In terms of age, 1% reports their age in the 20s; 13% in the 30s; 31% in their 40s; 32% in their 50s; 18% in their 60s and 5% 70s or older. This is very close to last year's statistics.

The Wine Club, founded by Ron Loutherback in 1985 (celebrating its 15 anniversary this year) has three stores in Santa Ana, San Francisco and Santa Clara. 1998 sales were $35 million, 1999 sales were $40 million and this year's sales are projected at 45 million according to Loutherback.

Editors note: The Wine Club 2000 survey has been condensed to a 9 page report from Gomberg & Fredrikson and is available from Ed Schwartz PR upon request, 415/346-2929.