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Are Americans turning away from wine?

wine preferenceThe number of of us who prefer wine over beer and spirits is at a 14-year low

Unwelcome news for those of us who care about wine: The number of Americans who say they prefer wine over beer and spirits is at a 14-year low.

A July Gallup poll found that 40 percent of us who drink alcohol prefer beer, while 30 percent prefer wine and 26 percent like spirits best. The 30 percent figure is the lowest since 2003, and approaches the historical lows of the 1990s. The trend has continued downward since its peak of 39 percent in 2005, when wine passed beer as the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.

So what’s causing this?

Premiumization, in which we’re paying more for wine that isn’t especially better. Higher prices almost always have something to do with how we decide what we buy. The downward trend, which started in 2009, almost exactly coincides with premiumization.

The decline in restaurant wine sales, again thanks to higher prices. Those of us who might have a glass or two when we eat out may have given that up to save money.

• The craft beer movement, as well Big Beer’s panic-fueled marketing to regain the favor of U.S. drinkers.

• An uptick in the number of Americans who say they don’t drink, at around 38 percent from 35 percent in 2005. My guess is that many of these people are wine drinkers who drink only on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, but have given up alcohol for health or pricing reasons.

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10 thoughts on “Are Americans turning away from wine?

  • By Mark Clinard - Reply

    As per the comment about the reasons Americans are drinking less, maybe religion can be added to “health and pricing” reasons. The rise on evalgelicals and Muslims, who are against alcohol is clearly pushing the consumption numbers down

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      I considered religion as a reason, but the numbers don’t really bare it out. The Pew Research Center tracks this (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/), and Muslims make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, hardly enough to make a difference. Evangelicals are about one-quarter of the population, and that number declined between 2007 and 2014.

      Also, if religion was a reason, you’d expect that the number of Americans who don’t drink any alcohol would increase, and it has remained at 40 percent for years.

      What I should have done more research about is the health aspect, given the rise of neo-Prohibitionism over the past five years.

  • By Steve - Reply

    Can also be a generational issue. A lot of people are turning away from activities, purchases and lifestyles that seem to be an integral part of anything associated with snobs and pseudo wealth. Wine falls into that category…the rich keep getting richer.
    Spirits are making huge inroads also. Frankly, drinking spirits are more economical than wine.
    Beer, although faltering, is also a refreshing and rewarding experiences for the senses. Some beers are more expensive than wine.

  • By Michaela Rodeno - Reply

    The Wine Market Council has been publishing professional research for decades on the USA’s shifting preferences for wine trends (and beer, and/or spirits). It wasn’t long ago that 42% of American adults drank no alcohol at all, for health or religious or other reasons. Craft beer and artisanal cocktails have encroached on wine consumption recently, especially among younger drinkers, but wine remains a growth market. Check out http://www.winemarketcouncil.org for a peek at the research summaries in the newsletters (the detailed data is available only to members.

  • By Gabriel Froymovich - Reply

    Americans are drinking more wine then ever before, on a per capita basis, and this is trending up. https://www.vineyardfinancialassociates.com/single-post/2017/08/08/Americans-are-NOT-Abandoning-Wine

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Yes, but… the per capita increase is more or less the increase in drinking age population.As I have noted many times.

      And it’s nice to see someone write that I’m wrong — did they give me credit?

  • By Gabriel Froymovich - Reply

    Curmudgeon,

    I want to include your last comment in my post. But can you elaborate, please? I am assuming that you are not saying that the demographics are shifting to include more of our population in the over 21 year old bracket, right?

    Since total alcohol consumption is pretty much flat, that does not seem to be an explanation. Are you saying that demographics are shifting in a way that results in a greater proportion being of prime wine drinking age?

  • By Dirk Hiram - Reply

    Isn’t it possible that this current wine lull is cyclical? It seems that right now, the micro-spirit movement is gaining momentum and taking the place of craft beer craze from a few years ago, which makes it the popular flavor-of-the-day but only for a period of time. With the influx of legalization of marijuana, maybe we’ll see alcohol consumption go down slightly. Also, with the increase of gluten-related allergies or sensitivities, it seems many not yet of age wine drinkers, will be driven away from beer and many spirits. So perhaps when they age and come to appreciate the experience, taste and satisfaction that wine offers, they might make those wine numbers fluctuate again.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Yes, these things happen in cycles, but I don’t know if this is a cycle or more than that. We’ll just have to wait and see. And craft beer is far from dead, according to the numbers.

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