Wine trends: What we’re drinking and why, part III

This is the third of a three-part series about wine consumption in the United States. Part I is here; part II is here.

Obviously, wine consumption in the U.S. differs by region. People in New York are going to drink differently from people in Alabama who are going to drink differently from people in Oregon. But those consumption patterns are even more different than you might imagine.

That was perhaps the most intriguing bit of information in he 2007 Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Overview. It ?s just not different ? it ?s quite a bit different, and there doesn ?t seem to be any real reason. In the 52 weeks ended Jan. 12, 2008, for example, wine sales increased 15.6 percent in Dallas and decreased 6.3 percent in Birmingham, Ala.

The Nielsen report reveals a number of dichotomies like that: Wine sales were down in southern California, but up in Seattle; down in Atlanta, but up in Indiana. And sales increased a mind-boggling 52.2 percent in Louisville, Ky. ? hardly the wine consumption capital of anything.

It ?s difficult to make sense of these results, even allowing for small sample sizes, the economic downturn, and the U.S. wine distribution system, which skews availability. There is almost no way to comprehend that Louisville number.

Fortunately, we do have insight into some of the differences, and it revolves around regional labels and consumer loyalty. Nielsen tracks brand sales, and a friend in the business forwarded me a comparison of Texas and Florida wine sales. In each state, the best-selling brand was Yellow Tail, the $7 Australian import,

But in Texas, two local brands made the top 20, Ste. Genevieve at sixth and Llano Estacado at 20th. These wines, which are mostly not available in Florida, didn ?t show up on the Florida sales chart at all. Conversely, Floridians bought $12.5 million worth of Livingston Cellars, a grocery store bulk wine. That would have made it the fourth most popular brand in Texas, where it was 23rd. I ?d guess that there are a lot of Livingston drinkers in Florida who drink that and little else.

Also worth nothing is that California produces 90 percent of the wine in the U.S. but accounts for only 64.3 percent of wine sales. Imports are just less than one-third of the market, and the top 5 regional producers (Washington state, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio) accounted for more than 5 percent.

Here ?s another big change: Who ?d have thought you ?d ever see a wine sales chart with those last three states listed as ?important

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