I swear I've seen something like thirty news headlines in the last two weeks announcing "Americans Now Drink More Wine than Anyone Else." This is clearly not true. But what is true, apparently, is that for the first time ever, more wine was shipped into this country (and/or shipped within our borders) last year than any other country in the world.
What this actually means, well that's a complex answer. Anyone looking to simplify that complexity (and who wouldn't when you're trying to make generalizations at the scale of the global economy) could reasonably say that America consumed more wine last year than any other country.
I gave my own little cheer when I read the news stories, but then I started to wonder at the real story behind the numbers. Certainly, shipping volume can't be denied as an indicator of commercial activity, and a derivative of commercial demand. But where are all those boxes of wine going? And are they really being consumed when they get there?
What has happened to wine inventories in the past year in all those big warehouses around the country where the boxes end up when they cross our shores? According to some folks I know who spend time in those warehouses, they're not exactly emptying out at the rates they were several years ago.
And then there's the little problem of per-capita consumption in this country, which is still dismally low compared to almost all other countries in the world. We Americans drink only 9.6 liters of wine a year per-capita. That's less than Macedonia, and only a bit more than the United Arab Emirates, where alcohol is pretty much illegal.
The good news is that our consumption, no matter how you measure it, is on the rise. Our per capita consumption in 2008 was up 14% (thank you recession), and I expect it to keep on rising, though it will take us a long time at even a 14% annual increase to approach the per-capita consumption of France, at 53 liters of wine a year.
This of course means that some of us (we know who we are) seem to be responsible for vastly more than our fair share of wine consumption in this country. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but that's a gap not unlike the income inequality gap in this country. Sobering. Or just the opposite, as the case may be.
So forgive me if I don't get too excited about this recent milestone in our country's history of global wine commerce. It's an achievement to be sure, but there's much more to be done to get wine on more tables in this country, more often. And of course, there's much more wine to be drunk.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
The Essence of Wine Wins a Roederer Award I'll Drink to That: Carenn Jackson of Glazer's Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 13, 2015 Vinography Images: True Blue 2015 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 28, San Francisco Is Wine Ready for its Close Up? Warm Up: Pre-Prohibition Texas Wine I'll Drink to That: Chad Carey of Hot Joy 2015 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 20, San Francisco Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 9/13
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune