The American Wine Drinker Leads The Pack

January and February brings a flood of data about what Americans have been drinking and what the trends hold for the future.

At the end of January, the leading annual summary of US consumer wine behavior comes from the combined efforts of the Wine Market Council and The Nielsen Company, and the report last week confirmed that the US wine drinker is wielding more and more power over the international market and that tastes keep shifting.

Wine sales here continued to grow in 2012, according to the report, and in many cases, it’s the millennial generation that’s driving change and growth. But when the overall cohort of 21 to 36 year olds are split, more of those younger legal age drinkers (28% of the 21-26 year olds) are avid wine drinkers and said they drink wine daily. That’s a higher number than Millennials aged 27-36, a group in which only 19% say they drink wine every day. More importantly for restaurants, Millennials overall consume more wine than other generations, and during more occasions.

Who drinks wine in the US? By now there’s not much point in counting, as 100 million of an estimated adult population of 228 million say they drink wine. And the so-called core wine drinker, those who say they drink wine weekly or more often, has risen from 34% of the population in 1994 to 57% last year. That group of core wine drinkers also account for more than 90% of the wine volume consumed.

Other occasions beside the weekend night out are becoming more wine-focused. The growth in casual dining and even quick-serve restaurants offering wine and beer, and the growth in the volume at those outlets, definitely contributed to the overall increase, as reported by John Gillespie, president of the wine market council.

Gillespie noted that for the first time, the annual report included statistics on wine by-the-glass consumption, and the results showed that most wine drinkers order wine by the glass at all kinds of restaurants, and fewer than half order wine by the bottle at any. Clearly, the time when a restaurant could offer only a few wines by the glass are near an end.

Varietal fluctuations in popularity continue, noted Danny Brager, VP at Nielsen. In terms of volume increases, moscato rose in sales by 30% last year, malbec by 16%, sauvignon blanc by 11%, and pinot grigio by 10% to lead in percentage change. Argentina, now the number three country in terms of imports by the US, grew impressively as did New Zealand. Inexpensive Prosecco and moscato are the fastest growing sparkling wine sub categories. And, perhaps surprisingly, domestic blended reds grew 20% last year and now outpace zinfandel.



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