Americans Learning to Love WineIn 2010, the United States surpassed France as the largest wine consuming nation in the world, thanks in large part to the Millenial generation in its 20s and 30s that is appreciatively drinking wine like its Baby Boomer parents. The Millenials value wine to the extent that they are also willing to spend a lot more for it than the national average of $3 to $5.99 a bottle. The news came from Gromberg, Fredrikson & Associates, a wine industry consulting firm in Silicon Valley, and has been widely reported in California, which accounts for 61 percent of total sales in the U.S. with a retail value of $18.5 billion, not a shabby number. Another reason for increased consumption might be that all 50 states now produce wine. In any hamlet where people are making this most charming beverage, the neighbors happily learn to drink it.

For anyone with temperance tendencies, who might be worried by the information, please note that average wine consumption in our country is just 2.6 gallons per capita per year, whereas in France, it’s 14 gallons. We have precisely 11.4 gallons to go before we become French fried. Americans may drink very little wine, but regardless of the economy, the weather, or the occasion, we’re steadily drinking more. The world has taken notice, and the U.S. has become the premier destination for every wine producing nation on earth. Our country is the repository of an extraordinary array of different wines from various places at all prices, a virtual wine paradise for anyone who might like to step into a store and buy a bottle for dinner.

While we may be importing a lot of wine, we’re also exporting it. In 2010, U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, jumped 25.5% in value to an estimated $1.14 billion. I’m always surprised when I find a relatively small winery, maybe 10,000 cases, that allocates a certain amount for export. As one small producer told me, “Why not? It’s always good to diversify our market.” In other words, exporting wine is not a profit center just for big wineries. Thirty-eight percent of our wine was shipped to the European Union, and the other top markets were Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and China.

A particularly joyous part of the Gromberg-Fredrikson announcement was that sparkling wine consumption increased 10 percent in the U.S. While the category is only 4.6 percent of all wine sales, the jump indicates that we’re drinking sparkling wine for occasions other than weddings. I love the trend and wouldn’t be without Prosecco to toast unexpected good news, a random visit, or friends who come through the door for a dinner..

The calendar marked the beginning of spring on 21 March. If the weather didn’t notice and is still cold in your county like it is here, take heart. The season will arrive and will be a very fine reason to open a wine with bubbles. Enjoy!