This data is sourced from VinePair Audience Insights, which offers revolutionary, real-time visibility into alcohol trends. Our indexes track the popularity of the 65 most important types of wine, beer, and spirits in the U.S. marketplace. Built upon the largest proprietary collection of real-time first-party data about consumer alcohol preferences, VinePair Audience Insights empowers you to make smarter, faster marketing, purchasing, and investment decisions. All data in this report is based on our inCategory Interest SubScores.*

This Takeaway examines August 2020 data, as well as summer 2020 as a whole. August results show a continuation of what we saw in July: Across the board, the winners across all categories kept on winning, while all other types of wine, beer, and spirits held about steady or lost ground year-over-year (YoY). This is something we have seen throughout the summer months of June, July, and August.

Is alcohol looking at its own unequal K-shaped recovery, where the brands and alcohol categories that entered the Covid era in a position of entrenched strength have bounced back quickly, while upstarts face a far more uncertain future? Our data is increasingly supporting this notion. Moreover, we’ve seen similar evidence appear in other industry reports, detailed below.

Reporting on a Distilled Spirits Council survey of craft distillers in late August, Fortune notes that close to 41 percent of sales “evaporated — worth more than $700 million,” and furthermore, 31 percent or “roughly 4,600 jobs [at] craft distilleries have been furloughed.” Meanwhile, craft beer’s Brewers Association released similar survey data, detailing the extreme challenges faced by taproom and draft-reliant smaller craft breweries. While these smaller producers are suffering, the United States has been a relative bright spot for many of the world’s largest wine and spirits producers. Similarly, most of country’s larger regional to semi-national craft breweries have been buoyed by consumers flocking back to 6-, 12-, and 24-packs of flagship brews.

It’s clear that the loss of taproom and distillery foot traffic throughout Covid-19, and specifically summer, has played a large part in creating financial stressors for these industry subsectors, but VinePair Audience Insights data indicates this is only part of a larger picture. In difficult times, consumers have been flocking to the comfortable and the familiar. This is something we’re seeing both in the brands that are attracting interest, as well as the types of wine, beer, and spirits that consumers are spending their increasingly stretched dollars on.

The Data In Detail

The biggest beer story of summer 2020 was – no surprise – the continued rise of Hard Seltzer. Macro Lager and Mexican Lager squeezed out double-digit gains on strong August YoY numbers as Hard Seltzer comps grew increasingly difficult. Consolidated IPA (IPA/NEIPA/Double IPA) managed to score a double-digit YoY gain in August. Finally, Porter/Stout and Gose/Sour ended the summer on a rough note in August. The success of the beer category in summer 2020, overall, was owed mostly to Hard Seltzer followed up contributions from Macro Lager, Mexican Lager, and IPA.

On the spirits side, early summer trends continued in August. Cognac, which has been soaring all summer long, closed out August with triple-digit YoY gains. Rum continued to show strength (+20 percent YoY). Tequila remained firmly in control of the #1 spirits spot. Bourbon held on to no. two in August, followed close behind by no. 3 Generic Whiskey. We saw Amaro decelerate over the course of the summer, skidding to a -35 percent YoY drop in August. This is the opposite of the prior two summers, when we saw Amaro gain interest sequentially from June to July to August. (If you’re not familiar with our methodology, we categorize aperitifs such as Campari and Aperol as Amaro; and in fact, those two brands are responsible for most of its interest share.)

To recap the entirety of summer 2020 for spirits: Cognac sizzled. Tequila showed no signs of relinquishing its top spot in terms of consumer interest. Liqueur, driven by strong interest in at-home Margarita making, posted solid gains. Gin consolidated the gains it has made over the past two years, and finished summer 2020 +30 percent over the same period in 2018. Mezcal interest doubled from 2018, but lost momentum from last summer as consumers flocked to the familiar.

Finally, we turn to wine. Rosé (#1) held on to its top spot all summer long, but interest was well off previous years, including in August, decreasing -22 percent YoY. Champagne (#2) and Prosecco (#3) were fairly flat in August. Champagne again posted sequential gains, clocking its highest monthly level of interest post-Covid lockdown in August. Core varieties put in a strong showing in August, as they did in June and July. Cabernet Sauvignon (#4) was +34 percent to put in its best August on record. Chardonnay (#5) rocketed +77 percent to its best August in our tracking series. Red Blends (#10) similarly saw +78 percent YoY for its best summer number we’ve recorded. Other August winners included Sauvignon Blanc (#6) with +24 percent YoY; and Pinot Noir (#7) with +24 percent YoY growth.

After a horrible, no good late winter to spring, Champagne ended up posting an OK comp, down only -3 percent YoY. We should note that, despite Champagne posting record low interest scores earlier this year, the French bubbly never slipped out of the top five wine varieties by interest.

The big winners in wine for summer 2020 overall were the same wines that showed up strong in August: Cabernet Sauvignon (+40 percent YoY) rose sequentially from May through August, showing the kind of interest in the dog days of summer that we would expect in the winter. Chardonnay finished summer 2020 +67 percent YoY; followed by Sauvignon Blanc (+20 percent YoY), Pinot Noir (+20 percent), and Red Blends (+23 percent).

Finally, Vermouth was up a massive +60 percent YoY for the summer — and those interest levels were not nearly as high as they were in March and April. The Margarita was definitely the cocktail of summer 2020, but the easy-to-make Martini shouldn’t be overlooked.

*inCategory Interest SubScores measure relative audience interest for a given type of wine, beer, or spirit against its peers within its category. Click to learn more about VinePair Audience Insights.