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The 2012 Wine Market Council report: More of us are drinking cheap wine more often

Are more of us drinking wine more often? That’s one of the conclusions from the Wine Market Council’s annual report, which tracks U.S. wine consumption habits and trends.

The report, which has been published since 1994, says that core wine drinkers – those of us who drink wine at least once a week – make up 25 percent of the U.S. adult population and drink 93 percent of the wine. The good news? That the number of core wine drinkers has increased by two-thirds since the first study.

"Wine drinkers are gravitating towards higher consumption," says John Gillespie, the president of the market council. "And the driver seems to be they see more occasions as wine drinking occasions."

But, even then, we're watching prices. More than 9 of 10 core wine drinkers said it's possible to buy wine without spending a lot of money. (Insert plug for The Cheap Wine Book here). Says the report: "The most desirable characteristics in a wine bought at retail are value, high quality, previous trial, and a high level of comfort when serving it to friends." Note that this does not say anything about scores, reviews, or any of the things that drive the traditional wine business.

This fact, tempered with the demographic information that showed that Millennials (consumers ages 21-36) drink more wine than the Baby Boomers, should make everyone in the wine business break out in a cold sweat. Because, though Boomers make up 38 percent of wine drinkers, they consume only 32 percent of the wine. The numbers for Millennials are 29 and 38 — and that doesn't include the 8 million of them who aren't old enough to drink yet.

There are still some numbers in the report that bother me, not the least of which is that per capita wine consumption in the U.S. has remained more or less the same for 40 years. But, says Gillespie, that's probably not as big a problem as I think it is. His focus is on the core numbers, which shows that Americans are taking wine more seriously than ever before. I'll settle for that.

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