Summer Wine and Beer Review

Learn how best to market and merchandise new drink offerings for retail success
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
Marian Zboraj profile picture
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, summer is filled with holidays perfect for celebrating with adult beverages.

Summertime is nearly upon us, and that means longer days and warmer weather are giving drinking-age consumers more options for at-home entertaining – everything from hosting boozy brunches with the latest wine releases to backyard barbecues with plenty of brewskis on tap. Regardless of the activity, grocers need to get ready to quench the thirst of wine and beer drinkers during the hot summer days. 

Raising a Glass to Good Times 

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, summer is filled with holidays perfect for celebrating with adult beverages. For example, Chicago-based consumer insights company Numerator’s “2023 Alcohol-iday Preview” shows beer as the top alcohol for Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. As consumers gear up for summer imbibing during these days, grocers can also have (sober) fun and get creative when marketing these holidays to the over-21 crowd. (For unofficial drinking holidays, see sidebar at bottom.) 

In addition to marketing wine and beer in connection with holidays, hosting in-store drinking events is always a big hit. Last month, for instance, select Save Mart and Lucky stores in California’s greater Bay Area and Central Valley invited shoppers to meet a roster of the Golden State’s trailblazing women winemakers. Part of its in-store tastings during the newly created Women in Wine series, the event offered shoppers a unique opportunity to meet influential female winemakers who are leading innovation in the wine industry and to taste a selection of prizewinning local wines available at stores operating under the banners.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our shoppers to visit ‘wine country’ inside our stores and enjoy a fun and educational tasting-room experience while meeting creative and innovative women winemakers at their local Save Mart and Lucky grocery store,” says Jeff Feist, director of alcohol, wine and beer for The Save Mart Cos., based in Modesto, Calif.

Grocers can also emphasize the benefit of creating at-home happy hours as an alternative to dining out at restaurants, where consumers would undoubtedly spend more. 

The Bota Box Summer Release Chenin Blanc & Viognier is made in a crisp, fresh style.

Cheers to the New

Another successful marketing tactic is spotlighting new or limited-edition products. There’s no shortage of seasonal varietals when it comes to wine and beer brands. Below are just a smidgen of new summertime sippers.  

Wine Time 

Premium boxed-wine brand Bota Box has launched its first limited-edition wine. The Bota Box Summer Release Chenin Blanc & Viognier is made in a crisp, fresh style. The unique-blend wine balances the aromatic floral and stone fruit notes of Viognier with the juicy, bright citrus and pear flavors of Chenin Blanc. 

“Summertime is all about being outdoors, and Bota Box’s lightweight, unbreakable wines go where glass can’t — whether that’s the beach, the pool or your next neighborhood barbecue. So introducing a wine that pairs perfectly with summer’s best moments is a natural move for Bota Box,” notes Andrew Blok, portfolio director of Manteca, Calif.-based Bota Box.

The wine is packaged exclusively in an eco-friendly 3-liter box, which contains the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles of wine. 

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cupcake wine
Cupcake Vineyards' Citruskissed Pinot Grigio is a medium-bodied and fruit-forward wine.

“This limited-time offering allows us to enter an untapped territory with Bota Box’s white wine lineup, capturing new and existing consumers alike who are looking to discover a refreshing wine option from a trusted brand,” adds Blok.

In April, Livermore, Calif.-based Cupcake Vineyards released Citruskissed Pinot Grigio. Available nationwide, this crisp, medium-bodied and fruit-forward wine comes with prominent notes of lime and lemon zest. 

“Building on the success of our pinot grigio and the rapid growth in flavor-forward pinot grigios, we’re excited to bring Citruskissed Pinot Grigio to the Cupcake portfolio,” says Cupcake winemaker Jessica Tomei. “The wine features notes of freshly squeezed citrus, mouthwatering Granny Smith apple, and a balanced minerality that leads to a crisp, refreshing finish.”

Citruskissed Pinot Grigio is made by combining grapes grown in California’s warmer climates with those grown in cooler climates to increase ripeness and retain bracing acidity, resulting in a more intense flavor profile.

The latest release from SweetWater Brewing is Gone Trippin’, an IPA featuring West Coast hops that are accompanied by pine, citrus and floral aromas, which are balanced by a malty backbone and a refreshingly dry finish.

Beer Me

In the beer category, SweetWater Brewing Co. recently launched Gone Trippin’, a West Coast Style India pale ale (IPA) that pays tribute to the bold, hoppy beers that SweetWater brought to the South more than 25 years ago. 

Gone Trippin’ (7% alcohol by volume, or ABV) is assertively hopped with Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, Chinook and Citra varieties. These West Coast hops deliver bitter notes accompanied by pine, citrus and floral aromas that are well balanced by a malty backbone and a refreshingly dry finish.

“We crafted this beer as a celebration of the long trip that’s taken us from the West Coast to the Southeast and back again — with many stops in Colorado. We’ve Gone Fishin’ and Gone Phishin’ for years, and now we’re Gone Trippin’. We’re getting back to our roots and absolutely stoked to release this hoppy love letter to Cali, wrapped in a funky tie-dyed can,” says Nick Nock, head brewer at Atlanta-based SweetWater. “Gone Trippin’ is a big yet easy-drinking beer that’s incredibly balanced. It’s perfectly bitter, it’s hoppy, but it’s also rounded out with a malty sweetness.”

Anchor Brewing
Bursting with zesty citrus, sweet corn and light maltiness, Anchor Brewing’s new San Pancho is crisp and approachable, ideal for easy drinking on sun-filled afternoons.

San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. continues its spirit of innovation with San Pancho, a craft Mexican-style lager with lime. The super-refreshing brew is a celebration of the rich mural culture and arts tradition in the Bay Area. With zesty citrus, sweet corn and light maltiness, San Pancho is crisp and approachable, which the company says is ideal for easy drinking on sun-filled afternoons.

San Pancho takes its inspiration from the Mission District, one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco and a notable center of the city’s Chicano community, long recognized for its bold murals, street art, popular taquerías and rich nightlife. Anchor’s brew team crafted the 4.9% ABV lager to capture that sense of place. San Pancho is brewed with lime, pale and flaked-corn malts, and Saaz hops for a well-balanced flavor profile and aroma.

“Anchor Brewing Co. has been at the forefront of craft lagers. We were drawn to the idea of a fresh and bright lager that’s distinctively San Franciscan and captures all the flavor and character you find in Mexican-style lagers,” says brewmaster Dane Volek. “The city’s Mission District pulses with energy, and we aspired to capture that verve through San Pancho, a beer that is vibrant, chill and easy to love, just like San Francisco.”

That vibrancy is also highlighted in San Pancho’s bold packaging. The artwork is inspired by the aesthetic and traditions of murals and paintings found throughout the Mission, as well as by historic works from renowned mural artists such as Diego Rivera, who created multiple pieces in San Francisco. 

In expansion news, Tilray Brands Inc. has expanded access to Montauk Brewing Co., a fast-growing craft brewer in the metropolitan New York area. Montauk Brewing is now available in more than 3,500 points of distribution in the Northeast, specifically across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island, including national retailers like Target, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Stop & Shop, King Kullen, Walmart, Wegmans, 7-Eleven, Costco and BJ’s. Among Montauk’s summertime craft beers available to a wider consumer base are Wave Chaser IPA, Summer Ale and Watermelon Session Ale.

In 2022, Montauk expanded its portfolio of products to include 19.2-ounce cans and launched Ocean Series, a higher-end 6-pack. This year, in addition to its seasonal classics, the company is further expanding with opportunity styles and larger case sizes that have won on a smaller scale, meeting industry trends and consumer needs. 

    I’ll Drink to That – Unofficially

    There are plenty of unofficial drinking holidays to promote. Here’s just a sample of fun summer occasions that merchandising professionals can gain inspiration from:

    May 15-21: National American Craft Beer Week – Grocers can use this time to celebrate the more than 500 independent breweries in the U.S.

    May 17: Pinot Grigio Day – Grocers can call attention to how pinot grigio is a crisp, fruity, food-friendly white wine that pairs well with seafood dishes. 

    May 25: National Wine Day – The ideal day to host an in-store wine-tasting event.

    May 25: Chardonnay Day –This holiday is a social media event that started slightly over a decade ago, encouraging people across the world to add some chardonnay flavor to their lives. 

    June 3: National Bubbly Day – Grocers can promote how these sparkling wines are the perfect celebratory drinks.

    June 10: National Rosé Day The quintessential summertime wine, this day is grocers’ opportunity to celebrate all things pink! 

    July 3: National Independent Beer Run Day – This day is a call for beer lovers across the country to buy craft-made beer ahead of America’s Independence Day. 

    July 6: Thirsty Thursday – We all know the trendy #ThirstyThursday on social media, but it’s also celebrated on the first Thursday in July every year. This holiday is an ideal way to promote grocers’ wine and beer offerings via their social platforms. 

    Aug. 3: National IPA Day This day is observed to raise awareness about one of the most popular types of craft beer in the world: the India pale ale.

    Aug. 13: National Prosecco Day – The most-sold sparkler in the U.S. can be promoted as a great way to savor the last few weeks of summer.

    Aug. 18: Pinot Noir Day – A fan favorite among wine connoisseurs, pinot noir is one of the most versatile and enjoyed derivatives of wine in the world. 

    Aug. 31: International Cabernet Day  Did you know researchers studying the effects of taste and food found that the tannins in cabernet act as “scrapers” for fats and proteins that collect on the tongue from consumed food? So let shoppers know that cabernet is scientifically proven to enhance the taste of any fatty and protein-rich food.