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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who's got your wine culture now?

Historically wine has been a natural part of life for much of Europe, especially in France, Italy, and Spain.  You can go back to Greek and Roman times and find wine carried in leather bags to purify drinking water. Heck, you can go back to the Bible and find lots of references to wine.

Per capita wine consumption has been dropping in France, Italy and Spain primarily because the younger generation goes more for beer or cocktails. Wine can almost be looked at as an old folks drink in some places.

Not too long ago the U.S. became the largest consumer of wine in the world. This is total sales. Our per capita consumption, however, is way down the list at less than one-fourth of what the French consume.

Having spent many years working in tasting rooms I've seen the buying public usually being in their 40s and 50s as premium wine is usually a bit pricey for younger folks. That age range has definitely been dropping. On a recent Saturday trip to a few Sonoma County wineries it seemed 95% of the customers were around 30 years old with many in their 20s. This is a fairly  new phenomenon and bodes well for the American wine industry. And for the importers, too, especially from countries where their own consumption is on the wane.

What do these young people drink? There are lots of marketing studies on this, of course. The latest one I read says Merlot and Malbec are popular. The rise of Malbec hasn't gone unnoticed, but there is only a very little bit of it planted in coastal California regions. It seems that it is difficult to grow and we are still learning--the same could be said about Pinot Noir 20 years ago. One Sonoma winery with Malbec planted called the grape "finicky."

On another note, China expects to be the largest wine grape growing country in the world in a few years.