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Ultimate Guide to American Wines

American Wine Culture

More than 27 million people visited U.S. wineries in 2007. That equates to about $3 billion in sales. Wineries have become more than just wine producers and sellers, too. They're often venues for gatherings as diverse as weddings and business meetings. Some wineries have onboard restaurants and gift shops and are also lively tourist attractions. That says something for the ingenuity of savvy wine producers, but it says even more about the changing American attitude toward wine. Most major newspapers have regular wine reporting, including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today. If there's a spectacular vintage out there or an underrated wine that'll fit the average budget, someone will be shouting it from the rooftops -- and people will be listening.

The United States jumped to the top spot as the world's biggest consumer of wine in 2010. Although we may fall behind France in per capita consumption (their rate is about five times higher than ours), wine is still hugely popular.

Let's take a look at a few fun wine facts to see how Americans enjoy their vino:

  • About 55 percent of the wine sold in the U.S. is purchased by women.
  • Wine consumption has grown for the last 17 years in a row.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, about three quarters of the wine sold in the U.S. is produced domestically.
  • Among imported wines, the largest producer is France with about a third of the market. Other big foreign producers are Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal. These are considered the old world (European) wine producers. Of the newer wine making countries that share about a quarter of the U.S. import market, the big winners are: Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa.
  • When it comes to wine, we prefer sipping in private. About 80 percent of sales were in the retail sector, with 20 percent going to on-premises sales at bars and restaurants.
  • The Wine Market Council's annual consumer survey for 2010 puts the U.S. consumer market at 77 million people and growing.
  • About 80 percent of wine purchases are more than $15 per bottle.

The debate between red versus white wine has been going back and forth for the last 40 years. In 1970, red wine was the overwhelming favorite with more than 75 percent of the market. By the year 2000, light, fruity and economically priced white wines were the clear winner with a 70 percent market share. Hold on, though: In 2007, these contenders were much more evenly matched, with red wine sales increasing to around 45 percent, in part because of the growing popularity of domestic Merlots. Actually, the real answer may be in your house right now. What are you drinking?