PORTLAND — Oregon’s wine producers should beware of becoming complacent now that their growth is outperforming regional and national competitors, experts say.
“There’s no question Oregon is rocking,” said Rob McMillan, executive vice president of the Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, said Feb. 20 during the Oregon Wine Symposium in Portland, Ore.
Last year, the Nielsen consumer research company found that Oregon’s annual sales volume had increased 17 percent, compared to 2.3 percent for Washington, 3 percent for California and 2.8 percent for the U.S.
“Nobody is growing as fast as Oregon,” said Danny Brager, senior vice president of the beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen.
Certain trends continue to favor Oregon.
The value of wine exported from Oregon increased 53 percent, from $127 million to $195 million, between 2013 and 2016, he said. Roughly half of Oregon’s wine is now sold outside its prime West Coast sales territory.
Social media references to Oregon wine are much more complimentary than references to the wine industry on average, Brager said. “The discussion of Oregon wine is massively positive.”
Higher-quality wine generally continues to see increasing sales compared to lower-end brands, said Christian Miller, proprietor of the Full Glass Research company.
“The core wine consumers are drinking more and better,” he said.
Oregon’s renowned Pinot noir is in the “sweet spot” to appeal to debt-ridden “millennials” and retirement-age “boomers” who are “frugal hedonists,” said McMillan.
In the future, though, Oregon wine producers shouldn’t count on tasting rooms to remain as effective in selling their products — particularly if they’re overly reliant on visitors from Portland, he said.
Though the trend has yet to hit Oregon, tasting room traffic is falling on other popular wine country destinations, such as California’s Napa and Sonoma counties, McMillan said.
“Oregon is the outlier, which is good for now,” he said.
Even so, the tasting room is a “choke point” in terms of reaching consumers, so wineries should become more effective national marketers, he said.
Wineries should move past “wine clubs” to attract customers by improving their e-commerce capability and digital marketing, as well as focusing on tourism, McMillan said.
“A national brand needs to have a national presence,” he said.