Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
Over the many years penning this column, I’ve periodically focused on the raw statistics of wine production and consumption in the United States – and elsewhere. This week I present the latest update for your consideration.
The history of our collective wine consumption is rather unique. Compared to the nations of Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, we are rather new at this indulgence. While we trace our wine roots to 18th and 19th century Spanish missionaries and European immigrants, those countries across the Atlantic Ocean can trace their roots as far back as the Greeks and Romans – 6,000 years ago.
And of course, the United States had a minor interruption in wine production and consumption, setting us back a step compared to other nations. The Prohibition era effectively shut down production and consumption of wine for over a decade. Realistically, today’s wine industry is less than 100 years old.
But, in typical American fashion, domestic wine consumption picked itself up by the bootstraps, then caught up to, and surpassed, the rest of the world. By 2010, the United States became, and continues to be, the top-consuming nation in the world.
Several wine producer stats:
There are currently more than 10,000 domestic wineries and tens of thousands of labels.
Annual production is 333 million cases.
Wine is commercially produced in all 50 states. As you would expect, California leads the pack, accounting for 42 percent of wineries, yet it produces 84 percent of all wine. By contrast, New York is home to 3.8 percent (fourth ranking) of wineries and produces 3.5 percent (third ranking) of total wine production.
Drilling down further, these stats boggle my mind: 84 percent of domestic wines are produced by 2 percent of the wineries. Seen from the opposite perspective, about 7,500 wineries each produce less than 5,000 cases per year.
A few more stats: Domestic wineries account for 65 percent of overall domestic consumption, according to the Beverage Information Group, a national tracking organization. These statistics include wine consumed at home and at wine bars, restaurants and group events. I have a suspicion that the latter two categories account for a substantial portion of total consumption (restaurant house wines, wedding reception wines, corporate events). The top supplier of the remaining 35 percent is Italy.
One more stat: Napa Valley lays claim to the most expensive wines in the United States, but it produces only 3.4 percent of the total wines (although it is the number one tourist attraction in California; Disneyland is second).
Now, several wine consumer stats:
Americans consume more wine than the French and the Italians, who are experiencing declines due to the changing beverage preferences of their youth and stricter DUI laws.
And our average annual per capita consumption is about three gallons, almost 17 bottles. That’s 1.4 bottles per month (1.7 glasses per week) for every man, woman and child in the United States, which pales in comparison to several of our other favorite beverages (bottled water, 44 gallons; carbonated soft drinks, 37 gallons; beer, 26 gallons).
But we are not at the top of this category. Who are the top per capita wine consumers? The Portuguese (68 bottles; 6.7 glasses per week), French (61 bottles; 6.0 glasses per week) and Italians (60 bottles; 5.9 glasses) consume substantially more than Americans, who rank a lowly 18th in comparison. Of course, population accounts for the apparent dichotomy in consumption statistics; the United States population base of 330 million dominates Portugal (10 million), France (67 million) and Italy (60 million).
How do these statistics compare to your perspective on the wine industry? And to your personal consumption? Don’t lose sight of the underlying basis for all of the above stats – they measure the continuing popularity of wine consumption without addressing the myriad health and social issues.
As someone much more insightful than I once said: “99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.”
Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.