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US leapfrogs France to top world wine consumption league

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http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-new...

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  1. The US population is nearly five times that of France, so this does not seem even newsworthy to me.

    7 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      Then, respectfully, I'd suggest you don't understand the significance. Despite having a substantially larger population (and for rather a long time now, too), the US has NOT been the leader in wine consumption -- either in total volume, or in per capita rates.

      Historically, the US has not been a wine-consuming nation, preferring distillates and beer. This began to change in the last quarter of the 20th century, but -- despite our larger population -- we lagged far behind dozens of other nations. With the growth of wine drinking among the millennial generation, this change accelerated noticeably. Since we do have (you're quite right) a larger population overall, our total consumption surpassed France to be the #1 wine consuming nation in the world for the VERY FIRST TIME in 2013.

      That said, we remain significantly behind in per capita consumption.

      1. re: zin1953

        I can't find the data point now, but I once calculated that Americans drink less than one bottle of Champagne PER YEAR. Don't we have more cause to celebrate in a year?

        1. re: Veggo

          If you mean true Champagne, that's understandable, because there are so many other sparkling wines worthy of consideration. I'm doing my part to improve the Cava numbers. Today I will celebrate that it is Friday afternoon.

          1. re: Veggo

            the wine vendor I occasionally trek to visit told me years ago that we are the only clients he had (at the time) who drank Champagne because we drank Champagne. He said everybody else insisted on saving it for something special.

            Sometimes, the fact that I managed to get through the day without completely losing my shit means it's been a very special day.

          2. re: zin1953

            It is significant that wine consumption in the US is increasing, but my point is that per capita figures are what matter. I don't see any point in comparing absolute numbers between countries with significantly different populations.

            1. re: GH1618

              I think the point may be that US is now the largest wine market in the world - important for all wine exporters.

              But for me rather than 1% here or there is the fact that US wine export grows very rapidly - mainly from California, the world is developing liking to California wine.

            2. re: zin1953

              *yawn* Old news. American wine drinking is a bubble that I expect to shrink dramatically as our middle class buying power continues to dwindle.

          3. "Leapfrog" is a humorous term when referring to the French! Was that intentional? :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Leonardo

              That's the Decanter editor's headline, and yes, I'm sure it was intentional.

            2. zin1953: "Historically, the US has not been a wine-consuming nation, preferring distillates and beer. This began to change in the last quarter of the 20th century..."

              First point certainly, though I'm tempted to nitpick it started changing in 1933. And Schoonmaker and Marvel (1941) make clear that right after Prohibition, most US wine consumption was fortified wines, but moving steadily towards table wines.

              Anyway: Around start of "last quarter of the 20th century" I began tracking per-capita statistics, which showed de-facto tiers of wine-consuming countries. The major wine-consuming cultures (diversified among the Medit'n, east-central Europe, and South America) consumed c. 10-12 times what the US did per-capita. By 2000 that gap was more like 6-8. In more recent data it's around 4.

              More interesting: the nuance that the US isn't 300 million people with every town averaging 10 liters/person/yr (vs. 30-45 in France, Croatia, Uruguay etc.) but, rather, several sub-regions consuming just as much per-capita as those "wine-drinking cultures," and the rest of the US using far less. Assessing the US as one market obscures more than it reveals. You could equally conclude that some parts of the US "remain significantly behind" others but that wine appreciation is spreading.

              17 Replies
              1. re: eatzalot

                >>> You could equally conclude that some parts of the US "remain significantly behind" others but that wine appreciation is spreading. <<<

                I think that's the proper conclusion, and the most common mistake wine & spirits producers overseas make about the U.S. -- thinking it's a single market. Not only does one have to deal with 52 distinct legal authorities, but (as you rightly point out) there are significant regional differences as well.

                I remember being really surprised when, in the 1970s, I learned that the #1 market for Cognac in the US was Metro Detroit, and pictured thousands of people swirling snifters at night after dinner. Uh, yeah -- WRONG! ;^)

                Of course I was even more surprised -- actually, "shocked" is a better word for it -- the first time I say a floor stack on Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac in a market in San Francisco's Chinatown for Chinese New Year's!

                1. re: zin1953

                  It's not only Chinese, but all Asian communities that
                  drink a lot of Cognac. Vietnamese mix it with soda
                  water, and stick strictly to brand names, even if
                  you offer them much better small producer cognacs
                  or armagnacs.

                  The other great mystery is why on earth the French
                  drink 10 times more whisky than cognac or armagnac
                  on average. Cognac consumption is a category where
                  US consumption per capita is more than twice that
                  of France.

                  1. re: bclevy

                    Because the French think of it as an after-dinner digestif, and not a cocktail mixer . . .

                2. re: eatzalot

                  PS: I don't think chowrin, in the comment here a few minutes ago, "gets it" at all. What is to chowrin a "bubble" of US wine consumption is a fairly steady trend since 1933, the awareness of it due to headlines is the only novelty here. And many of the people drinking wine daily in major "wine-consuming countries" have long been poorer than the average North American. Money-wise, that is.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Mrffl. I think most folks fail to consider the costs of travel (and sin tax) on wine. I feel as if you can make beer most anyplace, but good wine takes good grapes.

                    What's the average cost per liter of wine for a Frenchman? (assuming a glass or two with every dinner, so table wine, not shmancy stuff).

                    Now, I ask myself, how much does it cost here?

                    1. re: Chowrin

                      Lots of good Chowhound inexpensive-wine threads available by search. Some recent examples:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/971093
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/967659

                      (I just bought a couple of dozens -- and had to restrain from buying more -- of a way-more-than-drinkable California PN deeply discounted as a 1-day loss-leader special for around $5/btl, thus helping to maintain my household's contribution to the per-capita US wine usage heading this topic, without either great expense nor sacrifice of quality.)

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        The fact that your cost per bottle is less than half of mine ought to tell you something about where I'm coming from (for equivalent stuff).

                        1. re: Chowrin

                          chowrin, you've completely lost me. Quick reprise so far:

                          chowrin: "American wine drinking is a bubble that I expect to shrink dramatically as our middle class buying power continues to dwindle."

                          eatzalot: "US wine consumption is a fairly steady trend since 1933..."

                          chowrin: "What's the average cost per liter of wine for a Frenchman? (... table wine, not shmancy stuff) Now, I ask myself, how much does it cost here?"

                          eatzalot: "I just bought [in California] [some very decent PN -- marginally shmancy -- at $5/ btl, on sale]"

                          chowrin: "The fact that your cost per bottle is less than half of mine ought to tell you something about where I'm coming from"

                          Actually it was about half what I usually pay too, for the same wine, and was a digression anyway since your previous question addressed French _vin ordinaire_ whereas I was citing a better-than-everyday wine. To return to that particular question, I don't know currently. The first time I got _vin ordinaire_ in France, in 1972, it was somewhere under dollar a bottle at the time. You'd bring an empty bottle to the grocer and refill from bulk, rather as grains and flours are sold in some US supermarkets. Packaging aside, the equivalent US wine quality at the time was sold in the US in jugs, and if you had access to some range of them, could be of roughly comparable quality -- and price.

                          You first asserted anyway that recent US wine consumption numbers are a "bubble;" I see no support for that assertion in the longterm data.

                  2. re: eatzalot

                    >> consuming just as much per-capita as those "wine-drinking cultures," and the rest of the US using far less.

                    Very good point. I am guessing the so called "Bible Belt" consumes much less.

                    1. re: olasek

                      A recent map by US state: http://www.businessinsider.com/wine-c...

                      US total per-capita-per-annum history: http://www.wineinstitute.org/resource...

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        thanks, amazing map, who would even suspect D.C.?

                        1. re: olasek

                          Have you ever heard of a lobbyist that doesn't drink? a Senator that doesn't have a bar in his office? a party that doesn't include wines -- and staffers that don't have a glass of wine after work? ;^)

                          1. re: zin1953

                            What's even more amazing that the first place on the list (DC) is practically throw stone away from the last - West Virginia. What's so weird about WV?

                            1. re: olasek

                              I take it you're never been there . . .

                              1. re: zin1953

                                No, from nearby places I was only in Virginia.

                                1. re: olasek

                                  Why drink wine when you can make moonshine???

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    Got it!