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Americans Now Love Wine as Much as Beer

• August 05, 2013 • 10:14 AM

(PHOTO: CHRISTIAN DRAGHICI/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Over the past five years, wine has made massive gains in the hearts of Americans.

Sommelier versus cicerone, pinot grigio versus pale ale—the American rivalry between wine and beer is at its peak. A recent Gallup poll reveals the love for either beverage is practically equal: 36 percent of those polled stated beer was their most frequent alcohol of choice, while 35 percent claimed wine.

The survey, the annual Consumption Habits poll, demonstrates the increasing preference for wine among U.S. citizens. Beer has long been the historical favorite; in 1992, 47 percent of Americans preferred beer, while 27 percent chose wine. In 2008, beer still held an obvious advantage, claiming 41 percent of the vote while 22 percent went to wine. The five-year jump to equal affection levels is matched by a similar surge in production: as of 2012, there were 2,126 American breweries—the most since 1887. Additionally, 6,672 wineries spread across the country—2,000 more than in 2007.

Championed by hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj, moscato has served as a “gateway wine” to a new generation of wine drinkers.

Youth in particular are drinking more wine than ever before. From 1992 to 1994, 71 percent of adults under the age of 30 said they drank beer most often, while only 14 percent chose wine. Today, those numbers are vastly different: 41 percent prefer beer, and 24 percent prefer wine. The cause behind wine’s increasing popularity with young adults isn’t totally clear, but the increasing trendiness of blends like moscato may play a role. As NPR reports, the number of moscato brands have doubled in the past three years, and the wine is experiencing an unprecedented amount of attention. Championed by hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj, moscato has served as a “gateway wine” to a new generation of wine drinkers.

In a global sense, beer is still winning the numbers game. According to a 2011 working paper by the American Association of Wine Economists, the global volume of beer in the 1960s was twice that of wine. As of 2005, beer consumption (153 billion liters) was six times that of wine (24 billion liters). In financial sums, beer is vastly ahead; the authors state that the beer industry accounts for an estimated 130 billion U.S. dollars, while the wine industry brings in around 65 billion.

The increase in beer production is in part due to its growing popularity in China. As of 2011, China, with its enormous population, consumed 20 percent of all beer in the world and replaced the U.S. as the largest beer market. Huge beer conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch InBev have made a push in their marketing to the Chinese audience, in addition to acquiring breweries within the nation. While beer is still the favorite, wine consumption has also increased among the Chinese: in 2010, they overtook the U.K. as the world’s fifth-largest market and consumed 156 million cases in 2011.

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

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