As I pen this column each week, I frequently come across surveys that attempt to capture a plethora of wine-related data and statistics. Given my career background in finance, I tend to pause, review, assess and draw an inference (rarely a conclusion) on the underlying trends and influences in this wine-centric research.
When I accumulate this data, themes for wine columns bubble into my consciousness. Recent columns that have germinated from this scouring of the internet have focused on millennials’ drinking preferences, the standard deviation of the effectiveness of various corks as bottle closure and comparative grape harvest statistics.
As you may imagine, there are countless surveys and studies for which there is either a lack of space in this column or are so focused that they do not merit significant coverage. This week I’ve decided to regale you with several statistics on the drinking and buying habits of American wine consumers. In no particular order and without any overwhelming central theme, I present a subjective snapshot of the state of the American wine market.
An excellent source of wine consumer data comes from Dr. Liz Thach, Master of Wine, and Dr. Angelo Camillo, of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. Each year they poll a hand-selected group to assess the mood and habits of American wine consumers. Herein, a selection of data culled from their most recent report, some verbatim:
1. What is the level of oenological knowledge of Americans? Fifty percent of the survey group profess intermediate knowledge, 15 percent as advanced and 3 percent as connoisseurs. The other 32 percent? They confess to knowing very little about wine. The United States is the largest consumer of wine in the world, yet nearly a third of the wine consumers in the study don’t have a basic knowledge of wine. But maybe these are the abstainers among us.
2. So, how much do Americans consume? The FDA has set a safe guideline at two glasses each day for men, one for women. Fifty percent in the survey drink several days a week, 17 percent once a week and the remaining 33 percent less. Perhaps there is no statistical correlation between frequency and consumption. (The FDA specifies daily intake, not cumulative. Abstaining for several days and then binge drinking is not within the guidelines.)
3. Do consumers favor sweet or dry wines? I was surprised by the responses. The survey questions were presented as a check-all-that-apply mishmash from which it is difficult to draw any objective conclusions. The responses: Those who prefer dry wines, 36 percent; sweet, 38 percent; and semi-sweet, 45 percent. Those red blends that are popular in wine shops are satiating America’s sweet tooth.
4. When asked the factors considered when deciding which wine to purchase (check all that apply), here are the top five responses from survey participants. How do your decisions compare? Price: 80 percent; brand: 69 percent; varietal: 33 percent; country of origin: 33 percent; and rating score: 23 percent.
5. How much is spent on a bottle of wine? For home consumption, the sweet spot is $11 to $15, but for a special occasion it’s $50 to $99. At a restaurant, the average is $31 to $45, although 31 percent order wine by the glass. Where do you fall on this spectrum?
6. When do consumers typically consume a bottle of wine after purchase? Within 24 hours: 20 percent; within two to three days: 31 percent; and within one to two weeks: 39 percent. Another surprise for me. I assumed most consumers purchased wine for immediate consumption. Not so.
7. So what wines are Americans drinking these days? The 10 most popular wine varietals sold in wine shops last year (in order, by sales volume) were Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Red Blends, Merlot, Moscato, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, White Zinfandel and Rosé Blends. Quite diverse, I must say, with a few eye-openers for me. How do your preferences compare?
In our 21st century web-centric world, data gathering and usage influence our decision-making and opinion-setting. Why should our wine-centric choices and preferences be different?
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. 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.