By Christopher Matthews
It might sound like a “man bites dog” story, but the US has overtaken France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation in 2010, washing down a record 330 million cases from both US and foreign producers.
I guess we wine writers and bloggers haven’t been toiling (and drinking) in vain!
Presented recently by the Wine Institute, the study (produced by Gomberg, Frederiksen & Associates) estimated the total retail value of US wines sales in 2010 at $30 billion, with California alone accounting for a 61% volume share, valued at $18.5 billion. Although US consumption growth was modest in 2010 at 2%, the future seems bright to Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. Koch: “Americans are increasingly interested in a lifestyle with wine and food, demonstrated by the presence of wineries in all 50 states and 17 consecutive years of growth in US wine consumption.”
I was particularly pleased to learn that sparkling wine and Champagne sales grew by 10% in 2010, giving hope that US consumers might be expanding their bubbly drinking beyond just special occasions. We should all have more effervescence in our lives, including at the dinner table, where these wines can shine.
While news is mostly good, there’s still work to do. Per capita wine consumption in the US remains low at only 2.6 gallons per year (2008 figures), compared with the world leader, Vatican City, at 17.6 gallons (Catholic hierarchy under pressure?), France at 14.1 and Italy at 13.2. Nevertheless, the per capita rate has increased 14.5% in the US since 2004, while it has fallen 2.5% in France over the same period. We’ve certainly got room to expand. But the real object of salivation for wine exporters must be China, which, with a population of 1.3 billion, only imbibes at a 0.29 gallon per capita clip!