Americans now say they like wine just as much as they do beer, which is a huge preference shift in the past 20 years. That was the main takeaway from a new poll by Gallup.
While you shouldn't read too much into the results—Americans continue to spend a lot more money on beer and spirits—it says a great deal about this country's increasingly friendly attitude toward wine.
The poll didn't surprise me at all. Before I settled in Sonoma County 25 years ago, I lived in states all over the Midwest and South, and wine was just a blip on the radar. When I first became interested in wine back in those days, most of my friends rarely drank it, preferring beer or Bourbon.
Today, wine is their drink of choice. They post funny memes on Facebook about it and regularly ask me to recommend wines they might be able to find back home. Many even come to California for wine tours.
I witnessed the poll results for myself when I returned to Indiana this past week for a family event. Wine had a dramatically higher profile on the retail shelves. Stores that 20 years ago stocked mostly Sutter Home or Blossom Hill were stacked with good wines like Seghesio, Duckhorn, St. Francis, Pride Mountain, as well as bottles from France, Italy and South America.
Value-oriented Malbec from Argentina continues to be a huge seller, one Indianapolis retailer told me, and who would have predicted Hoosiers would be drinking South American Malbec 10 years ago? Even in my hometown, population 13,487, I was stunned to see some nice whites from Chateau Ste. Michelle chilling along with the Bud and MD 20-20 in the cooler at a corner convenience store.
So, no, it's not just Americans in New York or San Francisco who are driving the change. A similar preference shift is being played out in communities around the country like Portland, San Diego, Phoenix, Tampa, Dallas, Minneapolis, etc.
Times are changing and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out in the years to come.