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May 31, 2007 05:54 AM

Wine vs. Beer

Article from Slate online magazine is decent but it is my understanding that wine got a jump on beer sales primariliy due to white zinfandel and other such "wines".

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  1. Sales of beer may be [somewhat] flat, but . . .

    In 2004, Americans consumed 81.6 litres / 21.5 gallons of BEER per capita.

    In 2004, Americans consumed 8.6 litres / 2.27 gallons of WINE per capita. (See below.)

    * * * * *
    I'm not sure why you write, "white zinfandel and other such 'wines'." What is it about White Zinfandel that you think is not wine?
    * * * * *

    I would draw your attention to the following web page:

    The page gives year-by-year figures for wine consumption in the U.S., from 1934 (the end of Prohibiton) through 2005 (the latest year for which there are records available). It took 12 years (1934-1946) for wine consuption to reach the one gallon per person mark . . . which it maintained for exactly ONE year, and wouldn't reach again until 1967! It took from 1967 until 1980 to break the two gallon mark, and 25 years later wine consumption is still well below 2.5 gallons per capita.

    What happened is technology. White wines prior to the mid-1960s were generally of poor quality, but Robert Mondavi Winery opened its doors in 1966, the first NEW winery built in the Napa Valley since 1933! Technological improvements such as temperature-controlled stainless steel fermenters, new filtration devices and centrifuges, coupled with the expanded use of French oak, marked the last half of the 1960s and 1970s as being the time when there was great increases in wine quality across the board, from jug wines to (what were then) high-end Cabernets.

    The first commercially successful White Zinfandel was Sutter Home, which released their first vintage in 1972. Prior to that, however, you had Robert Mondavi making great sales with their "revolutionary" white wine, Fumé Blanc, and garnering headlines for their 1969 and 1970 vintages of "unfiltered" Cabernet Sauvignon. So, too, with Heitz Cellars 1968, 1969, and 1970 Martha's Vineyard Cabernets; Beaulieu with their 1964, 1968 and 1970 George de Latour Cabernets; Freemark Abbey with the 1969 through 1972 Chardonnays; among many others.

    You also had, for the first time, popular magazines such as Wine World, Vine and others dedicated to writing about wine. The Wine Spectator first appeared, in newspaper format, in the mid-1970s. And The Wine Advocate launched in the early 1980s.

    Also, keep in mind that as teenagers in the U.S. transition from being consumers of soft drinks to consumers of alcoholic beverages, there were the sweet, so-called "pop" wines of the 1970s -- Boone's Farm and Annie Green Springs. These were followed in the 1980s -- perhaps most important, on some level -- by a cheap wine alternative to beer, and in six-packs! This wasn't White Zin, but wine coolers -- Calfiornia Cooler, Bartles & Jaymes, Seagram's Coolers . . .


    10 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Thanks for the info. The only white zin that I ever tasted that didn't remind me of a wine cooler was DeLoach many many years ago (it actually had crispness and acidity).
      There is a reason that those who have trouble with:
      - Chardonnay
      - Pinot Noir
      - Cabernet Sauvignon
      adore white zinfandel.
      I've read many of your posts and you are obviously very knowledgable about wine. So I must ask what particular white zins would you suggest or which do you keep in your wine cellar?

      1. re: Chinon00

        Two part question, second part first: "Which do you keep in your wine cellar?" None. White Zins need zero time in the cellar; they are produced for immediate consumption.

        First part: "what particular white zins would you suggest?" Personally, I'd suggest dry roses from the Rhone (Tavel, Cotes-du-Rhone), the Loire (hello? Chinon Rose!), and or the south of France (Bandol, Provence and the Languedoc); also from Spain, and *some* from California, notably the Edmunds St. John "Bone Jolly" Rose.

        But if we are indeed sticking with White Zins . . . DeLoach still is quite good; so, too, is Buehler, and for a large winery, Beringer. Not a White Zinfandel, but a Zinfandel Rose, is Pedroncelli.

        1. re: zin1953

          I was being a bit rhetorical but the thrust of my point is that it is my understanding that the jump in wine consumption over the past 20 years or so in the US can be attributed to a large degree to large production white zinfandel (i.e. Beringer, Sutter Home, etc) and not Tavel, Loire Rose, Bandol, or any other great rose from Italy, Spain or the US even. Although I believe as well that the crowd who started with white zin have been moving over to pinot grigio the past 5-10 years en masse. All in all this is a good step IMHO.

          1. re: Chinon00

            Keep in mind that the period, 1967-1980, it took to increase per capita consumption from one to two gallons is the time of ALL the wines mentioned above -- the great press for the fine Cabernets 1968-1970, the 1973 Paris Wine Judging where California wines "beat" their French counterparts, Robert Mondavi and Vichon, AS WELL AS White Zin and the so-called "pop wines."

            IMHO, all these played significant roles.

            1. re: Chinon00

              I didn't know Gallo made a white Grenache.

              1. re: Josh

                They make several different types of blish wines and roses.

                1. re: zin1953

                  That was a joke. They had a TV commercial in the '90s w/ yuppies being surprised at Gallo offerings.

                  1. re: Josh

                    My bad . . . . I'd forgotten that one.

        2. re: zin1953

          Craft brews are still the fastest growing segment of the market.

          1. re: niquejim

            Not surprising, is it? But what do they mean when they say "Import"?

        3. What a stupid article. I love when ignorant journalists feel the need to "inform" the public with their inaccurate facts.

          "Wine is basically an agricultural product (fermented grapes), while beer is the result of a complicated process of manufacture (boiling barley to extract sugars, adding hops and yeast, fermenting the wort that results). This holds true whether the brewer is a medieval English villager or Anheuser-Busch. The hallmark of beer is consistency: A brewer strives to make batch after batch of Pilsener so it tastes the same—and often succeeds without much difficulty."

          This moron should try drinking something other than Budweiser.

          1. the author of the article is obviously someone who prefers wine. the whole article seems dismissive in tone toward beer in general and the craft beer industry in particular.


            1. I think most of us know that the "American beer executives, who have been jittery for years" are those huge corporate ones like Anheuser Busch, SABMiller, etc. And they are nervous because people are turning not only to wine, but to higher quality microbrews. American microbrewers are not jittery at all. Their sales are soaring.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mojoeater

                That article is ridiculous. It's only making me irritated to think about it.

                1. re: Josh

                  just pop the cork on a nice hennepin and fuhgettaboutit....


              2. German Beer vs. French Wine = DRAW

                Edit = Correction = BAVARIAN BEER WINS !!!

                4 Replies
                1. re: Jimbosox04

                  Hmmm . . .

                  a) I didn't realize this was a winner-loser scenario.

                  b) Depends upon one's personal taste preferences, doesn't it? Personally I prefer Belgian Trappist Ales and Lambics, even British ales, to German lagers . . . Doesn't mean Bavarian beer sucks -- just means that, to my palate, there are better beer choices, just as, to your palate, there is none better than beers from Bavaria.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    i'm not big on bavarian lagers either, but bavarian ales (ie hefes) are da bomb.

                  2. re: Jimbosox04

                    There's beer outside of Franconia?