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Sep 9, 2008 08:10 AM

Who buys wine?

"A core group of wine drinkers are responsible for driving consumption and growth in the U.S. The Wine Market Council says this group represents 17.4% of the population but consumes 92% of volumes. Out of these consumers, 20% bought wine via the internet in 2006 and 17% bought wine from a winery's website . . . ."

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  1. I see more and more young 20 to 30 somethings purchasing good wine...not stellar wine, but good diverse wine. Next tier would be the 40 sometings buying big name brands, ex: Caymus, Cakebread, Turnbull, etc. Then you have the collectors that go that extra step.

    1. 17.4% seems high, but I'm sure they have their way of figuring it out. One follow up quesitons, Jason: Elsewhere in the article you are quoting, was there a set of criteria for being one of the 17.4%? That is, how much does one have to purchase to be deemed someone who buys wine?

      16 Replies
      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        Short answer: no criteria are listed.

        Long answer: "It's interesting to note that the millennial generation, who enjoy drinking wine, are proficient web surfers and are more likely to order wine online. Millennials represent 26% of the U.S. population, while the boomers represent 29%. According to Wine Market Council research, 40% of them are reportedly drinking more wine, particularly imported wine. Meanwhile, the boomers prefer domestic wines in a large proportion (67%). The proportion of millennial drinkers who favored domestic wines was down to 37%, compared to 32% who enjoyed imported wines and 31% who enjoyed both evenly."


        1. re: zin1953

          This is interesting. I'm 30. I live in Boston and teach high school history. I started enjoying wine over beer a few years ago. I tend to buy Malbec, Rioja, and Cabernet (usually South African).

          1. re: zin1953

            Interesting. Being on the front-end of the Boomers, I often look around at wine purchases at stores like Costco. Most of the folk in my demographic are buying bulk wines. Maybe it's just the store and times that I shop.

            I hardly ever see much wine being purchased first-hand. That worries me, as the Costco stores do allocate by volume. Still, my local shop has 98% of the Costco allocation (no white Burgs! Grrrr), but still a good cross-section. Still, if they do an audit, I fear that they will be reduced to Copperridge or less...


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Being on the tail-end of the boomers . . .

              >>> Meanwhile, the boomers prefer domestic wines in a large proportion (67%). <<<

              Only 20% or so of my cellar is domestic, maybe less.

              1. re: zin1953

                Well zin, where are you and I on the timeline of boomers? I admit, I buy wine, but it has gotten to the point where I buy almost all my domestic wine by allocation. As I get older, my doctor is forcing me to drink less (not because I'm getting older, but because of other medical quirks of getting older) and I find that drinking wine out of the cellar and trying to limit my purchases to a replacement level means I'm buying much less wine. Of course, the average price per bottle seems to keep going up! I think as folks mature in their wine drinking, and if they maintain a big interest in it, they become more likely to buy wines by allocation or over the internet rather than in a shop. It may have to do with wanting to be able to drink those smaller production wines that are not available retail (especially here on the east coast) or because they are more likely to be involved in web based discussion groups or boards where they learn about other wines and sources, but who knows. That said, I would assume that most wine is still sold thru shops as spur of the moment purchases. I would think that the vast majority of wine consumed in this country is not what you and I would consider "fine wine" and is not sold to people who maintain a cellar. (On the other hand, it may just be because I find that going into a good wine shop that has a good selection at reasonable prices is dangerous, I tend to walk out with much more than I went in intending to buy.)

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  Well, I am by no means unique, but perhaps I am unusual.

                  I was born in 1953, putting me near the end of the "boomer" cycle. But I started tasting and learning about wines when I was 10 years of age, and if we go back to the early 1960s, (virtually) ALL of the great wines were European.

                  From 1969 (when I started collecting wines for my cellar) through 2008, I have always prefered European wines (even when working for various California wineries). The sole exception -- a time when California wines came close to or equaled the amount of European wines in my cellar -- were the late-1970s through the very early 1980s, when I purchased a number of California wines from the 1974 through 1978 vintages.

                  Other than that . . .

                  And while I certainly have purcahsed wines via the internet, I overwhelmingly buy my wines in person.


                  1. re: zin1953

                    Hey, Jason, and others,

                    Please allow a stupid/silly question.

                    Do you think there's any correlation between the wines you were weaned on, and your palate preferences in later years? Do you think there is some sort of palate imprinting or "software programming" or cellular encoding that goes on?

                    I ask because I was weaned on French wines. My favorite wines, as a whole, are still French. (Yeah, yeah, I'm an Italo-Oenophile too.) There is something about French wines that strike me as being deeply familiar, and absolutely right, like the turning of a key in a lock. Is that flavor appreciation, or flavor memory? I experience the sensation as being something deeper than a mere memory, as if the brain recognizes a prototype, an old language -- a foundation of flavor laid down long ago -- and says "yes." Maybe that's just a *deeper* flavor memory.

                    Or, is it that the first good wines, or a category of wines, have always had good wines and I was just lucky to have been exposed to them first?

                    I think people who were exposed to great Italian cooking at an early age kind of always gravitate towards great Italian cooking. Is it because the cuisine is good or that it's a reflection of programming or both?

                    I'm not making perfect sense here, but you probably get my drift.

                    Has anybody else experienced this?


                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Maria, when I grew up we used the same raw foods as in “great Italian cooking” with American preparations and some French influences of butter and cream. I had not tasted olive oil cooking, but now I gravitate toward Italian cooking because it is that good. I much prefer Italian wines with Italian food and from this, I learned to prefer “food” wine more than the big fruit-forward types. This has led me to mostly French and Italian wines.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I think if Champagne were Italian, I'd be favoring Italian wines as opposed to French wines.

                        I think you might be right. The first great wines I had were mostly French, and I sought out to learn more about them. It helped having studied French in college, though that may be a matter of circular logic. But I also think French wines are the easiest to quickly understand at a basic level.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Maria --

                          As you know from other posts of mine (but others may not, so please bear with me), I grew up in the retail side of the California wine trade: my uncle owned a WINE shop when everyone else owned LIQUOR stores. His was, at the time, one of the very few wine stores in the greater Los Angeles area, along with Wally's West, Greenblatt's, Llords & Elwood, and perhaps one or two others.

                          When I was ten years old, I had my first taste of really good wine. It was Thanksgiving 1963, and he opened up a 1937er Erbacher Marcobrunner Trockenbeerenauslese from Schloss Schýýnborn. My reaction was that it was MUCH better than Manischewitz . . . .

                          Since that night, he made it a point to let me taste whatever wine(s) were being served, and by the age of 16, I went to work for him.

                          Now, clearly, in the early-to-middle 1960s, European wines were "the good stuff." There was little if any wines available in retail stores from Argentina, Chile, and South Africa, let alone Australia and New Zealand -- all of which are common in the US market today. In California, you could find some New York State wines, in addition to the Manischewitz and Mogan David labels (which were based on New York State-grown Concord grapes). Usually, back then, you could find Taylor (of New York -- keep in mind there was no "Taylor California Cellars") "Lake Country White" (and Red and Rosýý), as well as some Taylor Sherries.

                          ----> Note: Because Taylor of New York held the US copyright for "Taylor's," the famous producer of Porto, Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman -- known the world over simply as "Taylor's" -- is instead known in the U.S. as "Taylor, Fladgate."

                          So, yes -- I grew up tasting, drinking, and enjoying primarily French wines. There were also some German wines -- though that always seemed somewhat problematic to me, especially the wines from the Staatsweingut and its German eagle; we were Jewish, after all -- and some Italian wines -- which were soon to be described as "pretty good, for an Italian," meaning you ignored the excessive VA and enjoyed the Chianti Classico Riserva anyway.

                          My exposure to "serious" California wine was, at this time, pretty much limited, to the reserve bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon from the "Big Four" -- Beaulieu, Inglenook, Charles Krug, and Louis M. Martini.

                          This all changed in the late-1960s and early-1970s, as wines from the 1968, 1969, and 1970 vintages were released. Robert Mondavi was doing great things with Sauvignon Blanc grapes; Freemark Abbey was doing the same with Chardonnay, as was Mayacamas. And it wasn't just the "Big Four" -- suddenly EVERYONE was making phenomenal Cabernets: Mondavi, Heitz, Ridge, Mayacamas, Freemark Abbey, Spring Mountain, Burgess, Oakville/Van Loben Sels, Souverain, Yverdon, and many more. And when Daryl Corti came out with his Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel from Amador, and Sutter Home followed with their Amador Zin, and Ridge . . . great Zins seemed to abound as well!

                          When I left my uncle's employ and went to work for The Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills, I was exposed to all the incredible wines from current vintages like 1970 and 1971 from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhine and Mosel-Saar-Ruhr, Italy (still good . . . for an Italian), and more! I was in heaven -- great wines were everywhere!

                          By the late 1970s, I was living and working in the Napa Valley, and wines from the great vintages of the 1970s were abundant -- it was the only time in my life, California wines dominated my cellar.

                          When the 1980s arrived, I was working for an importer/wholesaler. I discovered Porto and Sherry (we imported Noval and Lustau). Italian wines were great! (and no longer "good . . . for an Italian"). And Burgundy was God's gift to the planet!!!

                          Where California really lost me was in the 1990s. Thick, unctuous, overripe/over-the-top, Cabernets and -- worse! -- Pinot Noirs . . . when did Napa Valley become "The Napa" (as in "The Barossa")? These wines are "Californian in Aussie clothing," and while I can appreciated the quality of the wine, they are not to my taste.

                          Today, most of the wines I purchase still come from France, though not Bordeaux and relatively few from Burgundy (though in the case of Burgundy, it is largely due to price, not desire). Wines from the Rhýýne, Languedoc, Beaujolais, and the Loire dominate my cellar, with some from Alsace, the Jura, and the Sud-Oeust, too. Other countries with "healthy" representation in my cellar/shopping basket include those from Portugal and Spain. There are some Austrians, too, along with a handful of Germans and Italians -- though, admittedly, not too many.

                          From the New World, my purchases overwhelming come from New Zealand, Washington State and California. There is very little in the way of South American wines in my shopping basket; the same is true for Australian and South African wines. Oregon is problematic for me: I love Pinot Noir, and have had some great ones; I've also had some real disappointments. I am more successful with wines from Burgundy itself, and from New Zealand.

                          OK, that was a lot longer than I thought it would be . . .

                          Short answer: YES. It's a bit like catching a whiff of something, and suddenly you are transported to being five years old and in the kitchen with your mother as she's baking chocolate chip cookies (or some other childhood flashback!). For me, at nearly 55 years of age, there is a good deal of "deep familiarity," of "comfort," of "feeling home" in French wines that I do not get from California or elsewhere.

                          Thanks for such an interesting post!


                          1. re: zin1953

                            Wow. What an answer.

                            Jason, I've noticed this often:
                            You are your own Smithsonian Institution.


                          2. re: maria lorraine

                            I suppose that it could be, however in my case, I was weaned on Mogen David. Now, I still like my Ports, Sauternes and Eiseweins, but that is as close as I have gotten in 40 years.

                            Maybe I'm the exception,


                      2. re: zin1953

                        Front end of the boomers. Only Zinfandel and a few pinot noir, syrah, and sparklers that are domestic. (When I say few I mean 1-6 bottles). I do have a case of Rocks and Gravel. Everything else is import.

                    2. re: zin1953

                      >> "It's interesting to note that the millennial generation, who enjoy drinking wine, are proficient web surfers and are more likely to order wine online. Millennials represent 26% of the U.S. population, while the boomers represent 29%. According to Wine Market Council research, 40% of them are reportedly drinking more wine, particularly imported wine. Meanwhile, the boomers prefer domestic wines in a large proportion (67%). The proportion of millennial drinkers who favored domestic wines was down to 37%, compared to 32% who enjoyed imported wines and 31% who enjoyed both evenly.">>

                      I guess there are no stats on us Gen-Xers!!! I can't speak for all us, but I think my wine fridge is probably 60/40 imports/domestic. I don't hardly ever buy wine over the internet, only once or twice when I've put in a repeat order to one of the wineries where I belong to the wine club. Half the fun of buying for me is walking up and down the aisles of the wine shop perusing!

                      1. re: jcoz23

                        Unfortunately, the other half of the fun is being unable to stop myself and winding up going $300 over budget. I find I can control my urges better if I shop online. Being able to see the tab helps me to slow down. By the time I walk it to a register, it's much too late.

                        65% French, 10% Australia, 10% other European, remainder domestic, split among only a handful of producers, Dominus, Saxon Brown, Rosenblum and Ridge zinfandels, and a few random Oregon pinots.

                        1. re: mengathon

                          true... maybe that is why I'm always broke!

                  2. OK, OK, I admit it, I buy wine!

                    Now, for me, the volume breaks down about 60% local retail and 40% from outside the state. As you know, I live in AZ, so some channels are not open to me.

                    I get my semi-annual shipment from K&L, my Biale and Turley allocations, plus my Picchetti. Next, I have several producers ship to my Napa locker, and empty that in the Winter. Still, it's aobut 60-40. Wife picks up a handful at retail, but I am the family culprit. Sometimes, she says that I am the sole reason that US wine consumption stays up. Maybe she's right.

                    Anybody have a nice bottle of Zin to share... ?


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Female, (37) wine buyer for the house....(not fair because I am in the business), 99% French wine in my cellar and I would say 98% of my weekly buying for the house, but I think I was born with an old world palate, becuase most of the people I see shopping in my age group are buying California, Spain and quickly becoming more popular with this group Argentia.

                    2. 25 year old grad student living in Montreal. I buy from whichever region has the best value at the time. Right now, I buy by the bottle from smaller southern french regions that have maintained their value (compared to Bordeaux, for example) and Spanish/Portuguese wines which seem to offer some great 'bang for the buck'. If I buy domestic, it's from Quebec or Washington vineyards.