America the wine culture

While trying to catch up on my reading the other day, I came across a story from January that addressed the seeming growing wine consumption in the United States.

The direction of the brief story was to show the relationship between declining wine consumption in Europe (especially France and Italy) beside the rising consumption in the United States.

One of the statistics in the document that caught my eye also jiggled my memory.

The numbers reported in the story don’t always appear as per capita but rather as the overall consumption numbers and then they are compared to Europe and Australia, etc.

I did quick math on the overall consumption numbers and came up with a per capita wine consumption by Americans in 2008 at nearly three gallons.

Each case of wine is approximately 2.4 gallons. So, the numbers mean that for every adult of drinking age, wine consumption in the United States accounted for just over a case annually.

Juxtapose those three gallons a year over here with the per capita consumption in Italy and it presents quite a picture.

In Italy, wine consumption has been steadily dropping for a few years now. Still, the per capita consumption in Italy hovers just above nine cases annually, and that’s the wine that’s not homemade, which in Italy is surely quite a number.

All of this got me to thinking. I seemed to remember a per capita wine consumption number in the United States from 1984 that wasn’t too distant from the one posted for 2008. I did some checking and came up with the Wine Institute link below.

The reason 1984 stuck in my mind is because, that was the year I started my small winery and I was doing consumption research that year. Sure enough, as you can see in the link, in 1984 per capita wine consumption in the U.S. was just under one case annually.

What do the numbers say about the United States as a wine culture?

I’m afraid the numbers don’t say what we would like to believe about our wine culture.

Wine consumption in the U.S. has been rising for the past 15 years, and all we’ve come up with is an annual increase in per capita consumption from just under one case to just over one case!

So, why do we keep hearing about the United States wine market being coveted by Europeans and Australians?

The answer to that is in the numbers, too.

The latest census bureau report shows the adult population of the United States at 218 million (that includes 18 year olds). The over 65 group is at 36 million and the under 17 at 53 million.

I can’t find any information that gives a census of how many adults drink that one case each year, but I did find that just over 300 million cases of wine are consumed each year.

Think about it: 300-plus million cases going to a couple hundred million people, yet each person is allotted just over one case a year.

Based on my wine consumption, and the consumption of people I know, it’s clear to me that there’s a vast opportunity for selling wine to adults in the United States. Only a few of us presently do the heavy lifting.

Couple the opportunity here with the opportunity in China, where they might drink one bottle per year on a per capita basis, and you’ve got the two truly growth markets for wine in the 21st century—provided someone figures out how to speed up the growth, because at this pace, it will take a couple of centuries to make any money selling wine.

One thing is certain: the United States is NOT yet a wine culture. Not even close.

Wine Institute

Wine Market Council
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
February 2009. All rights reserved.

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