There are two wine communities in the U.S. — the regular, ordinary wine drinker, who buys almost all of the wine sold in the U.S., and the elite wine drinker, who represents a tiny, tiny fraction of the wine drinking community but who is catered to by the wine business and, especially, by its allies in the Winestream Media.
Read the latter, and one would assume that wine has to cost a lot of money, that one needs a PhD in wine geek to appreciate wine, and that anyone who dares to argue with them is a crude boor.
We know where the Wine Curmudgeon fits, no?
Nothing demonstrates this better than sales figures. I have a copy of a report from an important U.S. distributor, detailing sales from March 2011 to March 2012 in the Dallas market. It was given to me by someone who asked to remain anonymous; hence, I can't reproduce it or link to it. And, though, it's not a perfect fit for what's going on nationally, it's still a revealing look at what the real wine market — and not the Winestream Media's wine market — is like. More, after the jump:
? The top five brands were Barefoot, Franzia, Yellow Tail, Kendall-Jackson and Sutter Home. Only the Kendall-Jackson cost more than $10 a bottle, and the Franzia (which comes in a five-liter box) was about $2 a bottle.
? Only eight of the 89 brands in the report cost more than $15 a bottle, and only one cost more than $20 a bottle.
? The top 150 brands accounted for 82 1/2 percent of the wine sold, as measured by dollars, in the Dallas market. Given that there are thousands of wine brands available here, that is an amazing consolidation of sales.
? There are two Texas brands in the top 30 — Ste. Genevieve, at 11, and Llano Estacado, at 27, and three overall. The first two regional wines are more popular than Rex Goliath, one of the several Beringers on the list, and Smoking Loon.
? The average price for the top 89 brands was about $7 a bottle, more or less the average price of a bottle of wine sold in the U.S.
? The top 10 brands were not natural or boutique or artisan, but made by the biggest multi-national companies in the world, including E&J Gallo (Barefoot and Gallo Family) and Constellation (Woodbridge and Clos du Bois).
How different is this from the Winestream Media? In the Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2011, only nine cost less than $20, only one cost less than $10, and only two were regional wines. In other words, almost the exact opposite of the real world.
Yes, this may not be an exact comparison, since the Spectator list measures "quality." But that itself is significant, since it says that the wine that most of us drink is inferior and doesn't cost enough. That's a stunning assumption to make, and exists almost nowhere but wine.
Because, frankly, there are more than adequate brands on the Texas sales list, including $10 Hall of Famer Bogle; Freixenet and its sub-$10 cavas; Washington state's 14 Hands and Columbia Crest; and even Layer Cake.
Photo courtesy of minotaurus via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license