We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!
It’s official. The U.S. is now the largest wine market in the world, drinking up some 13 percent of all the wine produced globally, while wine consumption in such venerable bastions of wine-drinking as France and Italy is on the decline.
What are we drinking? Chardonnay, and lots of it. Almost twice as much Chardonnay as the next most-popular wine, Cabernet Sauvignon. Then come Merlot and Pinto Grigio/Gris.
What’s also interesting is exactly who is doing the drinking. According to studies conducted by the non-profit Wine Market Council, “core wine drinkers” (defined as those who drink wine at least once a week) consume 93 percent of all table wine by volume. Those core wine drinkers make up 57 percent of Americans who drink wine at all, but only 25 percent of adult population of the country as a whole. Per capita consumption, however, has tripled over the past 40-plus years.
All told, says the Council, some 100 million Americans drink wine at least every two or three months, a market big enough to grab the attention of foreign wine producers, many of whom are coping with decreased wine drinking among their own populations. Imports now make up 35 percent of the wine sold in the U.S. In California, Argentina is the largest exporter of bulk wine to the state, followed by Chile and Australia, with New Zealand—riding on the strength of its well-regarded Sauvignon Blancs—expected to play a bigger role.
And while imports to the U.S. and California are up, exports are up too. In fact, according to the San Francisco-based Wine Institute, U.S. wine exports are up for the third straight year, with 90 percent of those exports from California, the equivalent of 112 million cases. Europe is the top market for California wines, with Canada second and sales to Mexico doubling over three years and sales to China, South Korea and Vietnam up by 10 to 26 percent.