Who drinks wines? The USA tops the world in total consumption of wines in 2020. Adjusted for the size of the population, Portugal, Italy, and France have much higher per capita (over 15 years of age) consumption in 2020 than the USA: 52, 47, and 46 liters vs. 12 liters in the USA. Countries with high per capita consumption either produce large volumes of wine or have affluent consumers. Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom consume more wine per capita than the USA despite having minimal wine production. (Data comes from the OIV, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, unless otherwise noted.) In general, wine consumers tend to be affluent, educated, and keyed into trends and brands.
A global view of wine consumption breaks down into many niches when we ask what wines consumers buy. A Canadian report on consumers’ preferences (Carew et al 2017) reiterates what we have noted as a reason for avoiding Napa and Sonoma Cabernet: “California consumers were willing to pay more for Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa and Sonoma”. Cult wines from these regions have high price to quality ratios.
Buyers of the premier wines have international reach and have a wide range of favorites. All true, but popularity as judged by actual sales tells a different story. The grocery store wines produced under the Barefoot and EJ Gallo (California), Yellow Tail (Australia), Changyu (China), and Sutter Home (California White Zinfandel) labels dominate the volume of sales category with a combined volume of more than 60 million cases. All other labels pale by comparison unless segmented into fine wines that command much higher prices than typical grocery store wines. Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, California, Chile, Argentina, and Italian Super Tuscans) and Chardonnay (California, Burgandy) dominate this segment. Pinot Gris/Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and red Zinfandel are gaining on the leaders.
Where do people consume wines? Among the many choices of restaurants, wine and other bars, parties, and at home, the pandemic has shifted wine consumption from outside the home to at home. This shift in location has as a result increased per capita consumption of table wine decisively from 816 million gallons in 2017 to 876 million gallons in 2021. The trend in wine sales on the web and delivered directly from stores to consumers appears to be increasing year to year. Many wine buyers have more time to think about a menu for dinner and wines that complement various dishes. Glasses of wine leading into dinner and with the main course has become routine in many households.
A bottle of wine with dinner has transitioned from a European tradition to a post-pandemic standard. How this trend will play out in the future remains to be seen. We look forward to seeing what happens.
S. W. Hermansen has used his expertise in econometrics, data science and epidemiology to help develop research databases for the Pentagon, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and Health Resources and Services. He has visited premier vineyards and taste wines from major appellations in California, Oregon, New York State, and internationally from Tuscany and the Piedmont in Italy, the Ribera del Duero in Spain, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia, and the Otego Valley in New Zealand. Currently he splits time between residences in Chevy Chase, Maryland and St. Armand’s Circle in Florida.
Rich Hermansen selected has first wine list for a restaurant shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Mathematics. He has extensive service and management experience in the food and wine industry. Family and friends rate him as their favorite chef, bartender, and wine steward. He lives in Severna Park, Maryland.