(USA TODAY) -- Chez 7-Eleven?
Well, not exactly. But the nation's biggest convenience store chain, perhaps best-known as a place to grab a cold beer or a Slurpee, has quietly begun to sell ultra-premium wines at about $19.99 at 700 locations in 16 states.
The move is a serious bid to appeal to upper-scale Millennials whose business is crucial to the store's growth. It's also part of a broader, long-term strategy to attract more upscale customers to 7-Eleven stores. Just last month, the chain began selling better-for-you snacks including organic trail mix.
Sure, 7-Eleven may be better-known for carrying $3.99 bottles of Yosemite Road wine, "but we have to take care of our more affluent guests, too," says Alan Beach, vice president of merchandising.
For the holidays, 7-Eleven will even be selling a $54.99 bottle of Stag's Leap wine at about 300 stores. Consider, an average bottle of wine currently sold at 7-Eleven costs about $6.
Behind the wine surge at 7-Eleven: changing generational tastes away from beer towards wine. Wine sales domestically have grown for 19 years straight, says the Wine Institute. Wine consumption grew 21% between 2001 and 2011, reports the Beverage Information Group.
As wine becomes more mainstream, says Joe Czerwinski, managing editor of digital and print at The Wine Enthusiast, "it's subject to the same sort of impulse buying as other grocery items."
At the same time, Czerwinski notes, wine buyers tend to spend more per shopping basket than non-wine buyers, "so there may be expectations of some spillover effect."
For 7-Eleven, it's a no brainer. Unlike the guy who just pops in for a Slurpee and bag of chips, the gal who comes in for a bottle of upscale wine also might want to purchase a six-pack of its $8.99 Blue Moon craft beer, or even some of 7-Eleven's $20 iPhone chargers.
The A-list wines now at select 7-Eleven's: La Crema Chardonnay, Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Wild Horse Pinot Noir.
"We will see more of our stores adding premium and super-premium wines as demand increases," says Beach. Some 7-Eleven's that formerly carried just a dozen, or so, wines will now carry up to 40 varieties, he says.
Among the markets selling the upscale wines: San Francisco, Newport Beach, Ca., some Chicago suburbs and parts of Northern Virginia.
The target is younger consumers, age 21 to 34, whose incomes exceed $65,000.
The fancy wine is getting fancy in-store displays, too, under the banner, "Fine Wines Under $19.99."
In November and December, 300 7-Eleven stores will be selling the even more-upscale luxury wines that fetch $20 to $54.99.
Beach projects this will drive-up 7-Eleven's wine business for the holidays.
And that, he knows, is a lot of Big Gulps.