Log In / Join Now

Americans Drink More Wine—Mostly Bigger Brands

Looking for value in a recession, Americans trade down to less-expensive wines

Posted: October 13, 2009

In spite of the current recession, Americans are on pace to drink more wine in 2009 than ever before, with consumption expected to eke out a 0.6 percent increase this year, the 16th consecutive annual gain. The weak economy has slowed wine-industry growth considerably, as shrinking disposable incomes dampen overall alcohol consumption, particularly in restaurants, bars and other on-premise outlets, according to the upcoming U.S. Wine Market: Impact Databank Review and Forecast, 2009 Edition. But as the global economy improves, wine-industry growth is also expected to gradually build momentum.

There are a few exceptions but, in general, bigger wine brands have gained traction as many Americans have been looking for values by trading down to less-expensive wines. Last year, the 28 brands that sold at least 2 million cases each in the United States grew by a combined 1.1 percent in sales volume, the fastest growth of any segment. Collectively, these 2 million case wines were priced 35 percent below the industry average, according to the upcoming Impact report. The trend continued into this year as the 50 largest-selling brands are projected to combine for a 1.2 percent gain, double the total market’s expected growth rate.

Imported wines have been particularly hard-hit by the recession, and the continued weakness of the U.S. dollar does not bode well for imports in the near-term. Last year, domestically-produced wines outpaced their imported counterparts for the first time in 13 years, according to Impact Databank, owned by M. Shanken Communications, the parent company of Wine Spectator. Imports also have relatively greater exposure to restaurants and bars, which are more susceptible to consumer cutbacks in an economic downturn. Domestic wines are now projected to outperform imports in the near-term, and are expected to account for three-quarters of industry volume within a few years.

The annual U.S. Wine Market report analyzes the latest trends in the wine industry. With more than 500 tables, graphs and maps, the expanded 2009 edition consists of the first look at brand forecasts for 2009, projections by origin and category through 2015, as well as comprehensive charts of table-wine trends by variety, color, origin and type. The report also provides volume data for over 500 brands since 1980, rankings of the top 100 wines by volume and retail sales, the top 25 marketers and much, much more.

For more information about The U.S. Wine Market, which is also available on CD, and other Impact Databank reports on distilled spirits, beer and the global drinks market, contact Elisa Trapani at M. Shanken Communications, 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016; by phone at (212) 684-4224, ext. 339; by fax at (212)779-3366; or by e-mail at etrapani@mshanken.com. A comprehensive table of contents and a detailed listing of tables and charts is available.

Matthew Sheehan
Washington, DC, USA —  October 15, 2009 1:21pm ET
We can all see that consumers have been looking for more value in wine purchasing. The surge in "name brand" sales should signal opportunities for all in less known product, at even better value.
Nick Perdews
Simi Valley —  October 30, 2009 1:11pm ET
Industry consolidation at wholesale and retail tiers drives volume into the hands of the big producers ... and often leaves smaller producers, specialty retailers, artisan wineries, and engaged wine consumers out in the cold, left to find each other on the internet.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.