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Middle America Gets Wine Friendly

A new Gallup poll reflects a change in attitude among Americans
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Aug 7, 2013 10:20am ET

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.

Mark Lyon
Sonoma, California —  August 7, 2013 1:25pm ET
I am so glad to see this trend happening in th e U.S.! I too visit my home city (Phoenix-Scottsale) and see the wine and food culture really improving over the years.. My overall impression is that increasingly; Americans are being exposed to both better foods and wines. I think we are entering a food renaissance with our chefs recieving international acclaim; in addition to regional cuisines being touted as artistic and delicious! Hooray!
Tim Mc Donald
Napa, CA USA —  August 7, 2013 6:06pm ET
Great trend as apposed to fad! Good to have the 3 generations of wine drinkers adding wine to their adult drinking choices. We've come a long way and still a ways to go! Eat smart, drink smart, Cheers and thanks Tim
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  August 8, 2013 2:04pm ET
Tim and Mark, thanks for chiming in.
Marsh Moore
San Diego, CA —  August 8, 2013 2:34pm ET
Tim -

I agree and a big part of the upswing is distribution! Like you stated, 10 years ago all you could find in most stores were the big producers and the quality was always suspect. Today, more and more of the better wines are reaching shelves across America and in-particular those good values from Australia and South America. It is helping everyone in the wine industry and as consumer's palets improve people will buy better wines. I see the industry exploding over the next two decades - exciting!
Karl Mark
Illinois —  August 10, 2013 8:39pm ET
I do not see the industry exploding over the next few decades unless we can eliminate the restrictive state laws that choke distribution, sales and shipping of wines across the country.
Don Clemens
Elgin, IL, USA —  August 20, 2013 2:47pm ET
There's hope, for sure, but if you don't live near a major metropolitan area, it can still be mighty slim pickings for quality wines. But at least SOME wines are available most everywhere.

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