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08.17.2007

What Wines Do Americans Drink?

I'm completely fascinated whenever I learn more about what the "average" American drinks when it comes to wine. The Restaurant Magazine annual report on the top selling brands of wines in America that I regularly reference here on Vinography is always a sober wake up call to most of us who are wine lovers, because it represents a world of wine that we left behind a long time ago, or in some cases, have never experienced.

Is it safe to assume that none of you reading this blog regularly buy Turning Leaf or Franzia boxed wine from Safeway? Last time I did a survey of you readers, you were regularly paying more than $15 for your average bottle.

So I was pleased to see a new piece of research this week that added some more depth of understanding to my sense of what the average American wine experience is like. Released on Thursday, the Winemetrics LLC first annual On-Premise Wine Distribution Report, takes a look at the composition of wine lists around the country. Based on surveys of 10,000 restaurants in 20 states with a mix of casual and fine dining restaurants represented, the survey corroborates the findings of the annual brand survey referencing the top selling wines in America: Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, and Mondavi among other usual suspects.

However, this survey goes a little deeper, and offers up the following additional tidbits of interest:

The top 100 brands represented on American wine lists actually include 15 French wines, 7 Italian, 2 Australian, and 1 Chilean.
I never would have guessed these numbers. If you had asked me I would have thought that one or two would be French (remember Mouton Cadet?) and there would be likewise be only one or two from Spain and Italy as well. I assume the wines from Australia is Yellow Tail, and probably Rosemount or some other Penfolds brand. I don't have a good sense of what the Chilean wine would be.

Other top selling brands include Caymus, Cakebread, Sterling Vineyards, Veuve Clicquot, and Clos du Bois
This was interesting to me, mostly because several of these tend to be more expensive wines, certainly more expensive than all the wines on the top 10 brand list. The survey goes on to report that the largest number of wines consumed in restaurants cost between $25 and $39, but the article referencing the survey doesn't say what percentage of all the wines consumed is represented by this "largest number." I assume it is less than 50% as they didn't use the phrase "the majority."

Americans drink twice as much red wine as white, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir being the two top choices, trailed by Merlot in a close third. The top white wine is Chardonnay.
I guess this is not so surprising on any front, though I wish I knew what the number two white was. Any guesses? My bet is Sauvignon/Fume Blanc, with Pinot Grigio trailing with a distant third place.

It's important to remember that this analysis is only in 20 states, and that actual national stats may be a little different.

Winemetrics is an interesting company -- it offers a service that statistically analyzes your wine list compared to national averages, both on price as well as on brand and geographical representation. A service which I suppose some people would find valuable, but which is a little weird. I understand the pricing part of it, but I guess there are restaurants that might be interested in making sure that the geographical distribution of the wines on their list meet the national average -- like big national chain restaurants, etc.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.