A Watershed Year for Wine

Americans are drinking more wine than ever before.

Calling 2007 "the tipping point," Wine Market Council President John Gillespie asserted that "in hindsight, this will be the year we say that America became a wine-drinking nation." Speaking at the Council's annual New York event, Gillespie marshaled an impressive array of statistics to support his contention:

  • For the first time, research indicates there are more "core" wine consumers (people who drink wine at least once per week) than "marginal" wine drinkers.
  • For the first time, the mean age of the core group is lower than that of the marginal drinkers, indicating that people are discovering wine earlier in life.
  • For the first time, in 2008, wine sales are estimated to exceed 300 million cases.
  • For the first time, adult per capita wine consumption will top 3 gallons per year.
  • In 2000, 57 % of adult beverage-alcohol drinkers reported that they didn't drink wine, while 43%
    did. By 2007, those proportions were completely reversed: 57% of drinkers now drink wine.

Fellow speaker Danny Brager of The Nielsen Company emphasized that despite slightly slower growth in this year's holiday season sales—attributed to global economic issues—the outlook for the wine industry continues to be bullish. Consumers continue to trade up to higher price points, with the bulk of the volume and dollar sales growth concentrated above $12. Some other interesting tidbits from Brager:

  • Consumption of imports and red wines are growing at slightly faster rates than consumption of domestic wines and white wines.
  • Large volume, varietally labeled wines showing the largest sales increases are Riesling (+23.9%), Pinot Noir (+23.7%), Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon. Even faster-growing, but off smaller bases, are Malbec, Muscat and premium rosés.
  • Young consumers—the so-called Millennials—skew toward higher price points and imported wines when compared to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
  • Screwcapped wines now account for 4% of the market.

An increasing number of consumers are purchasing wine online or going online to learn about wine. Winery online sales have tripled since 2000, and 60% of wine drinkers report visiting winery Web sites. Forty percent report visiting online media sites, like www.wineenthusiast.com/magazine, while only 18% report visiting various blogs.

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