This week’s wine news: It’s the 100th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, plus insight into the SVB wine report and why the U.S. still drinks more wine than anyone else
• Happy anniversary – or not: Reports the BBC: “A century on, a small group of Americans are fighting to keep the dream of the so-called ‘noble experiment’ alive.” The story looks at those who think repeal was a mistake, and why they’re still optimistic about stopping alcohol sales in the U.S. Because, as the story also notes, “The drinking age of 21 is higher than in other nations where drinking is legal. Dry counties and dry towns – where alcohol sales are restricted or barred outright — are dotted throughout the country. And Gallup polling from last year shows that nearly one fifth of respondents said drinking alcohol was “morally wrong.”
• Keep the faith, baby: Rob McMillan, whose Silicon Valley Bank wine industry report made such depressing reading last week, tells the Wine Business International trade magazine that one should not abandon hope. He says the industry needs more professional management, which is usually missing given so many family businesses; that wine needs to understand younger consumers and not assume they’re like their parents and grandparents; and that wine needs to focus on health and not premiumization.
• Still No. 1: The U.S. remains the world’s biggest consumer of wine, despite all the doom and gloom. That’s the latest data from a study by International Wine and Spirit Research commissioned by Vinexpo. Intriguingly, Chinese consumers drink more red wine than anyone else, some 155 million cases. By comparison, the French drink 150 million cases of red wine. No, I have no idea what this means, save the Chinese prefer red wine.
This edition of Ask the WC: European wine consumption, and why they’re drinking less; plus, wine refrigerators and how much wine the WC tastes a year.
Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.
You recently wrote that “European producers keep pulling out vines in the wake of reduced wine consumption in France, Spain, and Italy.” Why is that? Why are they drinking less?
European wine consumption has been steadily declining for years, thanks to stricter drunk driving laws, the aging of the population, and younger drinkers turning away from wine. Sound familiar? Having said that, Europeans still drink more wine per capita than we do — about one bottle a month for Americans compared to four bottles per person in France.
Oh Cheap Wine One:
I’m thinking about buying a wine refrigerator. Do I need one?
Probably not, unless you’re buying wine that needs to age. And most wine doesn’t. The usual figure is that 90 percent of the wine in the world is made to drink within a couple of years of its vintage. In which case, use the fridge — take a cold white wine out about 20 minutes before you want to drink it, and chill a red for 20 or 30 minutes before opening.
Hello, Wine Curmudgeon:
You must write hundreds of wine reviews a year. Do you really taste that much wine? How much do you taste a year?
I write about 200 reviews of some sort on the blog each year (which doesn’t include reviews and the like for my freelance work). All told, I probably taste a couple of thousand wines a year between trade tastings, competitions, and drinking at home. It’s like my pal Dave McINtyre says: “It’s not so much that my palate is better is yoursd. I just drink a lot more wine than you do.”
More Ask the Wine Curmudgeon:
• Ask the WC 14: The wine availability edition
• Ask the WC 13: California chardonnay, grip, affordable wine
• Ask the WC 12: $5 wine, varietal character, negative reviews
The 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.