Home Wine Business Editorial DTC SOVOS and WBA Report: DTC Market Wends Toward a Re-Balanced Standard

SOVOS and WBA Report: DTC Market Wends Toward a Re-Balanced Standard


Mid-year market report indicates DTC sales recalibration after pandemic years.

By Jeff Siegel


The direct-to-consumer wine market is still trying to figure out what the new normal looks like. Is it the pandemic’s hyper growth? Is it the pre-pandemic’s pretty good growth? Or is it something else entirely?

That’s the riddle in the mid-year direct-to-consumer wine shipping report from Sovos ShipCompliant and WineBusiness Analytics, released earlier today

Larry Cormier
Larry Cormier

Yes, the average bottle price increased to $46.12, a 5% bump in the past 12 months, and volume at mid-year was up 11% over the same period in 2019. But volume of wine shipped DtC in the first half of 2023 decreased 7% and value fell 2%. In addition, California (which drives the DtC market with almost one-third of sales) saw a 14% drop in volume over the past 12 months. Oregon, meanwhile, suffered through the largest dip in DtC deliveries for both volume (17%)  and value (18%).

“On the face of it, this seems like bad news,” says Larry Cormier, vice president, general manager, Sovos ShipCompliant. “But it’s not necessarily bad news, because we have to compare it to two years of phenomenal growth during the pandemic. It’s more like the beginning of a return to some sort of normal.”

Pandemic bubble releasing its air

Peak DtC growth during 18 months of the pandemic equaled the growth during the previous three or four years, says Cormier. Hence, it wasn’t realistic to expect that to continue, and the 11% increase in volume compared to 2019 is a fine result that may point to that new normal establishing itself. He adds: “Is this good news? No. But it’s great to sustain that level of growth from 2019 in that channel given all of the trials of the past several years.”

Sovos Shipcompliant logo stackedStill, says Cormier, value DtC buyers seem to have left the market, either returning to more traditional channels, “or, hopefully, buying more expensive wine.”

That sort of price resistance was one explanation — and there might be many, he says — for the most troubling result, the decline in California DtC volume. It’s probably not a coincidence that Cabernet Sauvignon seems to have reached a peak bottle price via DtC at almost $90 per bottle, or that the average Napa bottle price was $80.79, while recording the price increase at 1%. And that Oregon – best known for pricey Pinot Noir – also fared so badly. 

Cormier says California DtC, especially, must meet the pressures facing the rest of the wine business, including aging Baby Boomers, less interest among younger consumers and higher prices. An earlier Sovos/WBA report predicted pricing resistance: “there has to be a ceiling for prices.”

Overall, is California the canary in the coal mine? Cormier weighs in: “There are a lot of headwinds, cultural and demographic, and California is going to face those challenges the soonest. 

“We’ll just have to see if it happens again.”

More middling results

Among the survey’s other  findings:

  • Washington state had the largest increase in average bottle price at 11% (though volume fell 3%), followed by Sonoma County at 10% and California’s Central Coast at 9%.
  • Other states also showed mixed results. Virginia’s volume was up 13%, but it declined in Texas by 2%. Meanwhile, volume grew 12% in Arizona and 5% in Colorado.
  • Mid-size wineries saw some of the largest decreases. Wineries producing 1,000 to 4,999 cases saw the biggest drop in average bottle price, down 7% to $60.53. These same wineries also saw the largest decline for value shipped, down 13% from the same time last year.
  • The largest wineries — 500,000 cases or more per year — increased their average bottle price the most, at 12% to $19.45. But they also saw an 11% drop in volume. 
  • Volume growth for most varieties declined, though the least popular grapes didn’t fare as badly; Merlot and Riesling each lost 2% in volume. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and red blends saw average bottle price growth (2% to 12%) and little to negative value growth (-7% to 2%). 

The report, compiled by Sovos ShipCompliant and WineBusiness Analytics, uses proprietary data compiled from an algorithm measuring total DtC shipments based on millions of anonymized direct shipping transactions filtered through the ShipCompliant system and paired with WineBusiness Analytics’ comprehensive data on U.S. wineries.


Jeff Siegel

Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.