America’s Unquenchable Thirst for Wine and Exploration | David White

"The wine world is a big, fabulously diverse place, and arguably the greatest pleasure that oenophilia offers is the pleasure of discovery -- of finding new grapes, regions, and wines."

“The wine world is a big, fabulously diverse place, and arguably the greatest pleasure that oenophilia offers is the pleasure of discovery — of finding new grapes, regions, and wines.”

These words appear in The Wine Savant, a new book from Michael Steinberger, the former wine writer for Slate and a current columnist for Men’s Journal.

He’s right. The pleasure of discovery is what drives wine enthusiasts. Those of us who obsess over wine aren’t just looking for something tasty; we’re looking for an experience.

This concept is firmly taking root in America’s wine culture. And it belies the notion that Americans are intimidated by wine.

Books with titles like “Wine For Dummies” and “Great Wine Made Simple” line bookstore shelves. The media perpetuates this assumption, eagerly reporting on every study that “proves” oenophiles are full of baloney.

But the numbers tell a different story. New data from the Wine Market Council, an independent, nonprofit trade group, show that Americans are increasingly comfortable with wine. And we’re thirstier than ever before.

Last year, the nation consumed 297 million cases of wine, a 27-percent increase from just ten years ago. From the upscale wine bar to their local 7-11, consumers can now purchase wine from more than 522,000 different outlets. Across consumer goods with more than $1 billion in annual sales, only wine, coffee, and snacks have experienced consistent growth over each of last five years, in both dollars and volume.

For more evidence of America’s wine confidence, look no further than your closest grocery store. Thirty years ago, the local market sold little more than jug wine like Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy — if wine was even stocked. Today, the average upscale supermarket carries 1,500 wine selections or more. The number of breakfast cereals pales in comparison.

Specialty wine shops also illustrate how the wine market is changing. Across the country, boutique retailers are filling their shelves with interesting, small-production wines — and helping consumers learn. More and more wine bars are also sprouting up, providing opportunities for people to explore.

High-end restaurants have responded to the nation’s self-confident wine culture by changing their approach entirely. Whereas sommeliers were once glorified sales agents who intimidated guests by pushing expensive, predictable wines, today’s sommeliers are wine educators, eager to share their passion and palates.

This list could go on. The nation has clearly embraced wine.

The United States is still a nation of beer drinkers, of course. Of every dollar spent on alcohol, $0.49 goes toward beer. But wine is catching up. In 2002, six in ten alcoholic beverages consumed were beers. Today, it’s one in two. Unsurprisingly, a recent Gallup survey found that Americans are equally divided between beer and wine when asked which they drink most often.

Even though Baby Boomers spend the most money on wine, millennials are driving the market. This generation of consumers — those between 20 and 37 — already makes up 30 percent of drinkers. And its participation is having a profound impact, as millennials take great pleasure in discovery.

In fact, the Nielsen survey asked consumers to react to the following statement: “I love to keep ahead of what’s happening. I love trying new things. I often tell others about them.” And more than any other generation, millennials agreed. It’s no wonder that millennials “frequently” purchase wine over $20 per bottle and are more willing than Boomers to purchase imported wine.

Today’s wine drinkers are an adventurous bunch, confident in their own palates and willing to explore the unknown. As the purchasing power of millennials increases, more and more Americans will pursue the pleasure of discovery.


David White is the founder and editor of, which was named “Best Overall Wine Blog” at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. His columns are housed at Grape Collective.

More in Life

White River Valley Museum opens “Suffer for Beauty” exhibit

Corsets, bras, and bustles, oh my! The White River Valley Museum is hosting its new event, “Suffer for Beauty,” which is all about the changing ideals of female beauty through the ages. The exhibit runs through June 17.

Library’s art and writing contest returns to Pierce County | Pierce County Library System

Pierce County teens are encouraged to express themselves through writing, painting, drawing and more for the annual Our Own Expressions competition, hosted by the Pierce County Library System.

‘School of Awake’ offers advice to adolescent girls

Twinkle, twinkle. For as long as you can remember, you’ve known how… Continue reading

Mental health first aid training in Enumclaw | The Summit

Friday, January 19 at 7 p.m., Dr. Michelle Bengtson will kick off the mental health-themed weekend by speaking on Hope for Depression: The World’s Greatest Epidemic. Dr. Bengtson is the author of the award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression.”

Print 3-D creations at Pierce County Library System

Bring a ready-to-print file and watch the magic of 3-D printing bring the file to life at Pierce County Library System’s 3-D Print Shop. The free print shop sessions are offered January through March at Pierce County Libraries, giving people the opportunity to use the 3-D printers to create items, get quick design lessons, and learn the 3-D printing process.

The past is the past, a review of ‘Robicheaux’

You don’t want to talk about it. You’ve been through rough times,… Continue reading

What would MLK do? A review on ‘Dear Martin’

What if your entire future was mapped out for you? All you’d… Continue reading

Blaine Larsen returns home for Dec. 2 concert

Blaine Larsen doesn’t perform much these days, instead spending his waking hours pursuing a higher calling.

Get your fill of winter activities on Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier’s landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation in winter.

Enumclaw, Buckley busy during the holidays

What’s going on during the holiday season on the Plateau? Here’s a list of activities you and your family may enjoy!

Bonney Lake, Sumner gear up for holiday festivities

Plateau holiday festivities are right around the corner.

Giving Trees help kids with Christmas

Nexus Youth And Families Enumclaw is asking local residents to help a child in need this Christmas by participating in the organization’s Giving Tree program.