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Americans Drinking More Wine But Still Lag Behind Europe and Australia
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed September 10, 2004. For more information go to

Americans are drinking more wine these days, a commercial wine-industry trade group reports.

The hypothetical "average American adult" drank almost 3 gallons of wine last year, or about 16 standard bottles, a level of consumption that the Palm Springs-based Adams Beverage Group declares the highest since 1989; that earlier peak, however, reflected that era's affection for wine-flavored "wine coolers."

Last year's consumption, Adams spokesman Tiziana Mohorovic said in a press release, was driven by a broad increase in sales of dry table wines, "specifically varietals of all kinds and from countries around the world."

"Consumers are eating out more and enjoying wine as an accompaniment to their food. Wines by the glass and half bottles, along with a plethora of label choices from around the world, have made wine more accessible and affordable," the news release continued. "Home entertaining also has been increasing, and consumers are experimenting with a range of wine styles and price points. Wine continues to benefit from the airing of 'the French Paradox' on 60 Minutes in 1991 and subsequent media attention that has focused on the apparent health benefits of moderate red wine consumption."

Imported wine sales increased 11.3 percent last year, while - a cautionary note for the domestic industry - sales of wines made in the U.S. rose only 3.4 percent.

While industry sales executives celebrate, it's worth bearing in mind that - despite the press statement's joyous declaration that "Wine Becomes Mainstream" - per capita consumption in the U.S. lags far behind that of our cousins in Europe. The average French or Italian adult opens up to 80 bottles of wine every year, although consumption has been falling off in recent times; Australians knock back 24 bottles annually per capita, and it's 16 bottles a year per grown-up in the U.K.

And of course the fact remains that most of us who are reading this article open far more than our share.

Adams Beverage Group describes itself as "The information source for the beverage alcohol industry." Details of its study are contained in a hefty volume, Wine Handbook 2004, that contains extensive information about wine sales and trends and sells for a cool $595. I think I'll wait for the Reader's Digest condensed edition.

For detailed statistics about wine consumption around the world, visit the California Wine Institute's data pages,


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