Uncorked: Wine consumption growing each year
by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star
Americans drink a lot of wine.

We consume more wine by volume than any nation, outstripping traditional wine consuming countries like France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

According to recent statistical data collected by Impact Databank and published in Shanken News Daily, in the United States alone consumers bought an estimated 325 million cases of wine in 2012, representing a 2 percent gain over 2011.

While we consume more wine by volume, we still rank 53rd among nations when it comes to per capita consumption. Average annual wine consumption per American is still less than one bottle a month. Many Americans consume no alcoholic beverages. Others partake of an occasional glass of wine, but numbers for whom wine is an integral part of daily living are growing.

Wine price statistics show Americans traded up in 2012. Sales of wines priced at $9 or higher increased by 11 percent while sales for less than $9 per bottle declined slightly.

Among the American wine-drinking public, chardonnay is still the most popular varietal followed (in order of popularity) by cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot grigio, muscato, pinot noir and in seventh place, white zinfandel, once America’s most popular-selling wine, falling a bit more from grace each year.

Wine industry statistics are released in dizzying quantities this time of year. This year brought the results of a 2012 Michigan State University study showing that three companies — Gallo, Constellation Brands and the Wine Group — account for an astounding 50 percent of the 325 million cases sold. If in doubt, take a closer look at the wine section in your grocery store where the brands of these three companies dominate.

André, Apothic Red, Barefoot Cellars, Bella Sera, Black Swan, Bodega Elena Mendoza, Dancing Bull, DaVinci, Frei Brothers, Liberty Creek, Louis M. Martini, Maso Canali, McWilliams, Rancho Zabaco, Red Bicyclette, The Naked Grape, Turning Leaf, Whitehaven and a series of Gallo Family Wines, along with other lesser known Gallo brands, take up the majority of wine shelf space in your local market.

The second most significant space on grocery shelves is taken up by Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Blackstone, Estancia, Ravenswood, Kim Crawford, Jackson Triggs, Franciscan, Ruffino, Semi, Hogue, Manischewitz, Mount Veeder, Mouton Cadet, Rex Goliath, Toasted Head, Vendange, Wild Horse and Woodbridge — all products of Constellation Brands.

If a fan of Almaden, Big House, Concannon, Corbett Canyon, Fish Eye, Franzia Box Wines and Mogen David, these brands are owned by the Wine Group, taking up the third largest amount of space in your grocery.

One might wonder what is left after conglomerates place their product on shelves. The answer is not much if shopping exclusively for wine in the grocery store. Locally, smaller production wines are sold almost exclusively at specialty wine stores.

Conglomerate wines are not necessarily of lesser quality. Most conglomerates have varying amounts of quality brands in their portfolios. Nor does it mean wine stores sell only the pricey, snobby stuff. Our two major local wine stores, Tyson Fine Wines and Things located in Golden Springs and The Wine Cellar on Quintard, offer specialty wines in all price ranges along with some conglomerate brands.

For years, the group most often drinking wine and most likely to pay $20 or more per bottle was the Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. This demographic is changing due to health, retirement and recession income loss.

Taking up the slack are the Millennials, ages 19 to 36, who have grown up with wine and accept it as a part of American culture. Data regarding consumption habits of this group show they make more adventuresome wine choices, have little brand loyalty and less regard for wine experts and their ratings.

There goes the job security.

Contact Pat Kettles at pkettles@annistonstar.com.
© 2013