Chicago is the third largest U.S. wine market by case sales ranking behind Los Angeles and New York. One would think that demand for regional wine in a Midwestern metropolis with 9.72 million residents would not be an issue. After all, Illinois was the fourth largest wine producing state before Prohibition.
However, regional wine sales do better the farther they get from Chicago, according to Doug Jeffirs, director of wine sales for the largest wine retailer in Chicago, Binny’s Beverage Depot. According to Jeffirs, Illinois and regional wines do better at Binny’s downstate stores than in Chicago. However, Jeffir’s did note that demand for regional wine is higher in the Chicago suburbs than the city.
“In Champaign, we have a much larger regional selection and in the Bloomington store (soon to open), we’ll have an even larger regional wine selection,” Jeffirs said. “In Chicago, regional wine is definitely a case-by-case basis. We let the consumer guide us on that.”
Jeffirs said he believes that downstate Illinois’ proximity to wineries helps drive regional wine sales there, citing the sales of Alto Vineyards, which has locations near Carbondale and in Champaign.
Jeffirs and other wine purchasers in the Chicago area report regional wine sales of zero to 2-to-3 percent of their total wine sales.
However, some Chicago retailers are increasing shelf space devoted to regional wine. At Mariano’s Fresh Markets, a rapidly expanding Chicago grocery store chain, there is a permanent display for 14 regional wines in each new store, according to Donna Goodwin of Midwest Wine Selections.
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