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Is wine falling out of favor in the US? Where does that put beer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by rdilauro, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. rdilauro

    rdilauro Savant (345) Connecticut Mar 8, 2010

    Here I am, a shade past 60 and then some. I started in the Wine/Liquor industry in the early
    1970s, then embarked on a career with IBM from 1974 until I retired in 2009. Back in the early 1970’s wine consisted of the fabulous French Bordeaux and Burgundies, the outstanding Italian noble wines, the famous Rhine’s and Mosel’s from Germany , and then of course the American Jug wine

    I was fortunate enough to be trained by an aging sommelier. He spent hours with me discussing wines, tasting wines, classifying wines and much more. At the age of 24, I was very adept in my wine skills. I became president of the Long Island Chapter of Les Ami dVin and hosted countless number of large and very private expensive tastings.

    Back then, it was also the cocktail era, so that the Gin’s, Rye’s and Scotch’s (Vodka was still a number of years away from being a mainstay) made their impacts. Of course you need to have a wide selection of cordials to satisfy any cocktail request.

    Beer, your choices were Pabst, Schaffer, Miller and Rheingold. Several years later Anheuser-Busch started to become a household word.

    Social drinking back then was divided into two major groups. The wine buffs who wouldn’t blink an eye at spending $45 for a wine just for the evening. And as always, the cocktail lovers made their presence.

    So, from a retail point of view, inventory was concentrated in those areas. To round things off, a few jug wines from California, by a new company called Gallo, and from some of the New York State Finger lake sweet wines. Depending on where you owned your Liquor store, you would decide on what the ratio breakdown would be for all of these items.

    FAST FORWARD…………. to the California Explosion!!

    I think no one person had a greater impact on wines from California, and then Robert Mondavi had.
    In the ‘60s, and the ‘70s California made its mark on the big jug wines. The ones you bring to picnics or at large family gatherings. Robert Mondavi in many ways was the pioneer who blazed the California wines on to the face of the earth. So many other wine masters followed his lead.

    Wine had made it to the USA! Over the next 20 to 30 years there was an explosion of Californian wines, in fact wines from New York, Oregon started to hit the retail market. These wines were good, they were made in small batches, hand crafted wines, the love of a winemaker and its land.
    This trend continued through the millennium and into the 201x’s. Nothing is going to stand in the way of the American consumer wanting the best wines at the best value. Wine bars opened up, Wine Forums and Blogs started to crop up everywhere. Magazines were filed with every type of wine advertisement of review you could think of.

    When you went to dinner, the waiter would bring you the “Wine List” People wanted to know more about wines. Online classes started to crop up to satisfy the public’s thirst for the knowledge of wines.

    Stores began in house wine tastings. Not only to educate the consumer’s palate but to expose them to so many different wines. Wine Clubs cropped up everywhere. You could join any one of those online clubs and have different wines sent to your house.

    The Corkscrew, The Bottle, The Wine was it is heyday in the USA!

    People who think outside the box began to envision something so much more. Sam Adams brewery from Boston, MA made a bold stand in creating ‘crafted’ beers for the knowledgeable consumer. Sam Adams brewery opened the door for crafted beers just as Robert Mondavi did for California wines.

    The wine drinkers in the ‘70s, ‘90s and more could speak about each grape, its characteristics, is bouquet,etc. Today, the avid beer enthusiast talks about Water ,Hops and Malt. After all, beer was so simple, German laws would allow beers to be brewed ONLY containing those 3 simple ingredients, nothing more. Today there are so many variations of Hops, Dry-Hopped, Wet-Hopped, what kind of malt to use and how much. The list of beer styles is longer than the list of wine styles.

    That was ONLY the beginning. Small crafted breweries started to crop up all over the states. Each had a brewmaster who knew exactly what he/she wanted to make. Today, most Wine/Liquor/Beer stores have cooler space for new and upcoming beers. Its an explosion that still has not reached its peak.

    In the overall scheme, making beer is easier to do then making wine. But that scheme is beginning to narrow. Why, because today’s brewmasters want to develop something different, more exciting than before. They are on a quest. Each week, we hear about new beers, new styles, etc. The correct glassware is also becoming standard when it comes to drinking beers. Today, we are a far cry from just opening a can of ice cold Coors.




    Just like today’s beer drinkers, there is a huge following for different types of spirits. The Whiskey Advocate publication concentrates on all the new spirits and rates the products very much the way Wine Spectator rates the wines.

    You can’t help but be caught up in this new wave. Its moving so fast and everyone wants a piece of it.
    The age groups varies, from the mid 20’s to those in their 50’s and older.

    People have always appreciated fine art works. Today, people are appreciating the efforts being put into making hand crafted beers or spirits. The labor of one persons vision on making a product is so very evident today. Almost every week, you will read about a new beer being made, a new type of whiskey being produced. Who would even think that Single Malt Scotch is now being made in Texas!

    I have never seen so much enthusiasm and eagerness to learn . Today’s consumer wants to understand how one wine/beer/liquor master produces high quality products. They want to learn and know more and more about the various products.

    We are experiencing sort of a new revolution in terms of alcoholic beverages. This era is growing rapidly and right now I do not see any end to it.

    Still, your wine shop will have the standards. The Cabernet, the Merlot, Red Zinfandel, Pinot Noir,
    Chardonnay, etc. Those grapes have been around for a long time. What you might see is how a country becomes the ‘popular’ on in wine production. After the USA, Australia opened a new range in products, then Chile, now Argentina…… But the wines are basically the same.

    Are people going to get stale because there is nothing new and exciting in the wine market?

    I hope not, wine is an art; it is something that should be appreciated and enjoyed. Pairing a wine with a specific meal creates a heavenly environment. I cannot think of anything more special that opening a fine bottle of wine, allowing it to come into the world and provide you with so many different senses, that it comes close to perfection

    Hand crafted Beer and Liquor are now starting to do the same. I have been lucky enough to be part of this explosion. There have been beers and whiskeys that I have tasted over the past 18 months that I could never have imagined existed. The flavor, the boldness, the subtle taste, the lingering aftertastes, and so much very more.

    So, are we seeing the fall of wines in the USA in favor of Beer and Liquor?
    Oshy, JulianC, Northlax3 and 11 others like this.
  2. shuajw

    shuajw Savant (485) Georgia Aug 12, 2007

    I haven't seen anything that indicates wine is declining, it's as popular as ever. I'd assume as more people look for good beer, they'll also look for better wine and liquor.
  3. ShemRahBoo

    ShemRahBoo Savant (495) New Jersey Jan 28, 2010

    Nice write up, was a good read. For your question I am not sure, but it's impossible to ignore that craft beer is becoming immensely popular. For a small story my uncle was primarily a wine drinker a couple years back. I told him their are beers just as great as a fine wine and their exist beers of vast complexity, nuance, taste, and style. He laughed at this. After him slowly tasting some of my beers at gatherings he is fully on board. Practically drinks no wine anymore and is asking me what fresh IPAs are out there, what stouts are good, which belgian styles he would enjoy, etc... I think wine drinkers with an open mind and proper experience will be amazed at the beers being produced, just need to be shown the way. Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who only know beer by the adjuncts and will never try styles that would open their minds. We are reaching a point though where this will become more scarce.
    gkatsoris likes this.
  4. Craft beer is booming, but I don't see wine declining much if at all. This is a good thing. People are drinking better than they used to.
    thenamestsam and gothedistance like this.
  5. no fall in wines one bit in Northern California. Very strong and ingrained up here.
  6. BKBassist

    BKBassist Savant (470) New York Jan 24, 2013

    There will always be people who drink to get drunk. And there will always be people who drink to raise there social status.
    Beer, wine and cocktails will also always be drunk by people who generally appreciate the craft behind the creation and wish to be advocates for it. I think craft beer, because of its (relatively) friendly price point and acceptance of beer in general, is seeing the spotlight right now. But craft cocktails are also very popular, and wine hasn't lost it's sheen. There's room for all three, whether you appreciate just one or more.
    19etz55 and Beergelden like this.
  7. Spaceloaf

    Spaceloaf Aficionado (215) Oregon Nov 27, 2008

    I know plenty of people that only drink wine (and don't have a clue about beer at all), so I don't see wine going away any time soon.

    At least in Portland, the number of wine shops and restaurants seem to be fairly stable, so I haven't seen any evidence of decline. Craft beer on the other hand is exploding at a crazy rate. My guess is that the new beer drinkers are not converted wine drinkers, but rather a new audience of people (either former BMC drinkers or people who don't really have a "go to" drink.) So there's no reason the two can't co-exist.

    Random story:
    I am reminded of a rainy day where I was walking past a wine shop and saw that they had a small beer section as well. So I circled back to check it out, following a guy through the door. The store was completely empty except for the lady at the counter, so she looked up to watch us enter. Funny enough, he made a bee-line to the beer section. I followed and right in front of us was some Pliny. We both brought some up to the counter and she had a faintly annoyed look. My guess is that the whole day she just got a bunch of dudes walking in and heading straight for Pliny while the rest of the store was completely neglected. Beer is definitely where the money is right now, even for wine shops.
  8. Since I got into craft beer my acceptable standard for wine has become much higher. I drink much better wine but in less quantity due to two factors 1) better wine usually costs more money 2) my total alcohol consumption hasn't changed since I got into craft beer, so as my consumption of beer goes up, my consumption of wine goes down. So yes, I buy and consume less wine than before, but I wouldn't say that wine in and of itself is declining.
  9. I have no answer to your question other than a gut feeling that says I don't think wine will decline just because beer is ascending. I believe beer and wine are separate enough and appeal to a different enough audience on the whole that the two can coexist peacefully. I also think that beer will level off at some point in the future.

    I also wanted to thank you for a really great write-up. It was a very interesting read, and I'm glad I took the time to digest all of it. I think you glossed over Anchor and Sierra Nevada a bit, but since you are on the East Coast that makes sense. Thanks for taking the time to relate this story to us.
    Hermthegerm likes this.
  10. cavedave

    cavedave Champion (930) New York Mar 12, 2009

    I don't think any correlation can be made that more fine beer lovers will impact wine. I think those folks who find better libations will stick with those they enjoy, and wine seems to be full a part of that movement, perhaps even the founder of it, as you point out.
  11. drtth

    drtth Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    As the Baby Boomers go through life they create a Tsunami-like effect with their economic and cultural impact. That rising and falling tidal wave has floated, then dashed a lot of boats. Most likely as we witness their passing into history we'll see the effects of their having been here for quite a while yet. But their changing tastes as they have matured and learned to appreciate and have become able to afford the finer things money can buy will leave behind a higher level of appreciation of many things and a greater willingness to spend on them. These things you speak of will stabilize, but at a higher level than they were when the economy was dominated by the effects and spending patterns of those who lived through the Great Depression.

    So I suggest that what we are seeing is a widening of perspective and appreciation of the diversity of all alcoholic beverages as the children and grand-children of the Boomers also learn to appreciate spending on quality rather than quantity. However there will be further changes as not all the effects created by the Boomers will survive. But in the long run the increased appreciation for that diversity of alcoholic beverages will remain.

    Edit: BTW, include Belgian beers in your flow of history description as a few things are different there than with German beers. That creates a different picture.
  12. Eh? Anheuser-Busch has been among the top 3 brewers in the US since the 1880's, the largest brewery in the world by the turn of the century and #1 in the US since the mid-1950's when they passed Schlitz for good, after going neck and neck with the Milwaukee giant for much of the post-Repeal era.

    By the period you're discussing (early 1970's) A-B would reach an unheard of 20% of the market, compared to Pabst's near 9% and Miller's under 5%. Rheingold and Schaefer were both large but dying northeast regionals - combined they still had nearly 8% of the US market but would both be gone by the end of the decade.

    According to per capita figures in The Brewers Almanac, spirits and wine are both up over the past decade and half, beer has been going down.

    US per capita consumption 1994 ---- 2010
    Beer - 22.3 gallons ---- 20.7 gallons​
    Wine - 1.7 gallons ---- 2.3 gallons​
    Spirits - 1.25 gallons ---- 1.5 gallons​
    cavedave, JimKal and gpcollen1 like this.
  13. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Savant (415) Connecticut Jul 16, 2005

    Everyones perspective is just that...what you experienced in life or in your head.

    Wine consumption is still on the rise and doing well. Even young people who think they Do Not LIKE beer, because they have been turned off by BMC, gravitate toward wine and even some interesting ones. Had a scotch next to 3 young ladies drinking prosecco last week...
  14. "Who would even think that Single Malt Scotch is now being made in Texas!"
    I knew Texas wanted to secede, but who knew they wanted to jump across the Atlantic?!
  15. taxman

    taxman Savant (255) Illinois Feb 22, 2012

    Interesting article. There is at least one glaring mistake: Single Malt Scotch cannot be made in Texas. By Scotch law, Scotch MUST be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland, among other things.
    BrettHead likes this.
  16. I know a lot of craft beer drinkers who are drinking less beer and more wine.
  17. Unlike wine, beer isn't limited by what the terrior yields for the year; the only limits that are placed on beer are the limitations of brewers' imaginations and availability of said beer. The sooner that people realize this, the bigger and faster our industry will grow.
    cavedave likes this.
  18. I''ve always thought Robert Parker was the worst thing to ever happen to the American wine scene. And he had no grasp of Burgundy whatsoever. Just saying.
    glaze3 likes this.
  19. Biffster

    Biffster Savant (365) Michigan Mar 29, 2004

    A brilliant read. Thank you. I enjoyed that very much.

    I think you may be on to something. Beer is all about innovation right now, and hopefully forever more. I don't necessarily agree that beer is easier to make than wine, having made both, but it is certainly different. And I think someone might make noise about Scotch in Texas not being scotch. Technically true, but you can call the wonderful malt whiskies being made in Japan anything you like; sip it blindfolded and it is scotch. There is innovation happening in spirits, and it is coming in waves. Who'd have thought about sipping aged tequila neat in a snifter 20 years ago?

    You were blessed to watch three renaissances first hand: wine, then beer and spirits. You are asking, in the final analysis, if wine's renaissance has played out. I think the answer is that it is possible. You mention Reiheitsgebot, but craft beer has clearly left that in the dust. People are doing things with malted grain, hops, and a host of new and varied ingredients that no one would have dreamed of 30 years ago, to say nothing of 300 years ago.

    This is obviously the best time in human history to be a wine lover or a beer lover. But I, too, wonder if wine hasn't trapped itself with its history. True, good and great wines are being made in places we'd never have imagined before, but despite growing conditions and yeasts, a Cab is essentially a Cab. Is it the unwillingness to try new things, like breeding new strains of grape? (There are new strains of hops every year anymore.) Is it the focus on geographic innovation at the expense of other experimentation? Maybe it's that focus on wine as "art". There is real science involved in all forms of fermentation. Or is it, at a basic level, the fact that wine has one ingredient and there's only so much you can do with it?

    I'm not qualified to answer, but I, like you, feel like wine is all about tweaking what exists, rather than trying something truly new.
    cavedave and Beergelden like this.
  20. We followed Robert Parker round Chateauneuf du Pape a few years ago. Every vineyard we visited , he'd just been to! I wouldn't like to suggest that he was given special treatment but it was clear that the vineyards benefitted from a good write up.I wasn't overly impressed with some wines he gave very high scores , thankfully I liked lesser (and therefore cheaper!) ones.
    Zimbo likes this.
  21. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Champion (930) Arizona Jun 18, 2002

    Wine might have some relative declines to beer and premium spirits, but I think the wine industry is still very healthy. There's a lot of growth in affordable wines that are decent, especially from the southern hemisphere. And it will always be among the most coveted beverages for those with discretionary income. That association is hard to break.
    aasher likes this.
  22. Many people in the USA feel that Robert Parker is one of the best things that happened to the American scene. Parker writes about and rates wine in a way that Americans understand.
    weatherdog likes this.
  23. Siggy125

    Siggy125 Savant (470) California Nov 10, 2006

    My beer story goes quite a ways back, but my passion for fine wine is fairly young. I never paid much attention to wine until one day in 2006, I tried a Pinot Noir that knocked my socks off. Since then I've been to Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles a few times per year and there are just as many wine bottles in the cabinet as there are beer bottles in the cellar. I now have a whole bedroom dedicated to my passion for fine libations.

    My first love is beer but I have a very deep respect for wine. You got one shot to get it right and then would have to wait til the next vintage to start over. If your batch of beer fails, you dump it and start over. Also, beer can be many things with all of the creativity with ingredients, especially adjuncts. Wine is only 2 ingredients, grape juice & yeast. The rest has to come from the loving hands of the vineyard manager and the winemaker.

    I don't believe wine is losing any ground. It just may possibly have fallen into the shadows of the booming craft beer world.

    Nice post OP
  24. aasher

    aasher Champion (900) Indiana Jan 27, 2010

    I don't think wine is falling off. There are more 90+ rated wines under $20 than ever before.
  25. I realise why people feel this way and they're right about that. He was a breath of fresh air in demystifying the BS around wine some 30 years ago. Unfortunately as a consequence not only was some the magic taken away as well but what he coveted in a wine (more immediately approachable ,big, concentrated, fleshy, rich, colourful) started popping up in wines (Burgundy, Piedemonte etc) traditionally loved and known for different qualities. And because of his influence California likewise shifted focus from the great hope highlighted at the Judgement of Paris in 76 to the more uniform short term Parker style type.

    There are other things that bug me about Parker's approach too.Nothing personal. People I know who've met him only have good things to say about Parker and I don't doubt that but for me his influence was far too complete and too long lasting. Only now are we really seeing a truer 'democratic' approach wine as Parker always wanted. Its ironic that this has finally come at about the time his influence is fading.
  26. I don't know about Europe. Here Parker had influence because he was praising the type of wine we liked in the first place. Ernest and Julio Gallo knew Americans liked "immediately approachable, big, concentrated, fleshy, rich, colorful" long before anyone ever heard of Robert Parker.
    drtth likes this.
  27. Could the drop in beer consumption be related to higher ABV beers? Where someone might have had 6 average ABV beers in a "session" they are now having 3-4 high tests?
  28. True but among serious wine drinkers Parker's influence far exceeds Gallo. I guess we should be thankful for that.
  29. I find Gallo's wines undrinkable.And I've tried a few.
  30. drtth

    drtth Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    I went through a 10-15 year phase of learning about wines, starting from scratch and reaching the point that at dinners with colleagues I was one of the people consulted about which wine to order for the table. But without looking it up using google I couldn't tell you who Robert Parker is or who bothers to listen to him. From my perspective he has had considerbly less influence than people give him credit for. As suggested above, its my view that Parker was simply adept at sensing where folks wanted to go and getting out in front so he appeared to be a leader.
  31. I don't know about that.
    But I do know that the likes of Gary Vaynerchuck & Eric LeVine (Cellartracker) are far more influential among younger American wine drinkers.
    glaze3 likes this.
  32. CircusBoy

    CircusBoy Savant (320) Ohio Mar 10, 2008

    Can only really speak for myself, but before I got into craft I drank a pretty equal amount of beer/wine/liquor. When going to the store or to dinner, sometimes I'd get a bottle of wine, sometimes a bottle of Jack, and others a six pack. Now, 99.9% of the time I drink I'm drinking beer. It's literally been years since I've had a glass of wine, and I may have a shot/cocktail every once and a while. Just don't have the taste for it; I'd rather have a good beer.

    But as a whole, I doubt other alcoholic beverages are falling off much if at all.
  33. Gary Vaynerchuck, how dose a BA living in Scotland know about a man who owns a store less than 5 miles from my home? Do you like Auslses Riesling on your Captin Crunch also ? lol
    Zimbo likes this.
  34. glaze3

    glaze3 Aficionado (130) Nevada Jul 29, 2010

    Parker's influence and palate are fading. He almost single handedly brought about the fad of huge over the top over ripe wines that IMHO for a long run ruined most Cali, CDP, and BDX regions and started making wine to please his palate as to garner the big scores.

    I have been primarily a wine geek for the past 12-15 years with a fairly large cellar, but as where I used to consume 3-4 bottles a week I am now down to 1 with a far greater beer consumption than wine. This is also true of many wine geeks I know. We still love fine wine, but beer is much more mid-week and cost friendly.

    BTW-Nice plug for Eric Levine, standup dude with a game changing product.
    Zimbo likes this.
  35. I know all sorts of stuff. Just not the things my wife wished I knew. Like how to distress the kitchen cabinets or how to finally build my personal website.

    BTW.if I'm eating Captain Crunch its gotta be Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. But with about 4 ounces of Gravner Breg Afora. ;)
    jmw likes this.
  36. Nail. Meet head.
  37. Indybier

    Indybier Aficionado (145) Illinois Nov 15, 2011

    I like a good wine and have gone on plenty a wine trip, but, a good recession sure can curb a person's splurging on $40+ luxuries like fermented grapes.
  38. spoony

    spoony Savant (470) Colorado Aug 1, 2012

    Interesting post, OP.

    My answer to your question would be to look at wine prices recently. The well-known first-growth Bordeaux have skyrocketed in price in the past ten years, as have the big Californians and other well-known wine growing regions (Burgundy, Rhone, Port, Piedmont, Tuscany, etc.). The booming prices suggests that demand for wine is still quite high and recent prices show no signs of dropping.

    I see two side effects of this steady growth in demand for big-name, well-established wines (which, I'm told, is fueled by increased purchasing in Asia):

    (1) A drag up in prices of other, lesser-known wines, i.e., if Domaine de la Romanee-Contie can sell their hooch for $2000 a bottle this year, I can sell my no-name 1er cru burgundy for $100 a bottle, even though last year I only sold it for $50; and

    (2) The creation of a whole slew of new, less-expenisive-but-seriously drinkable wines from established regions like Sonoma and the Rhone, and new regions (hello Paso Robles), for those consumers who used to buy more of the high-end stuff, but have now been priced out.
    sirtomtom likes this.
  39. kdb150

    kdb150 Savant (490) Pennsylvania Mar 8, 2012

    Beer won't really break through until we've done away with the mindset, still very prevalent, that thinks that beer cannot be anything other than a pale yellow adjunct lager, or Guinness. I'm sure most people on this site have heard a, usually older, person say when trying their craft beer that it "doesn't taste like beer," or "isn't beer." The startling ignorance of such statements aside, generalizations about such an unbelievably diverse beverage are a very large obstacle for the craft beer industry, one that many BMC marketing campaigns are surprisingly not trying to perpetuate. Consumers in the U.S. have certain expectations when they order a beer, and many are hesitant about, if not downright hostile to, the notion of consuming a beer that doesn't fit their incredibly narrow expectation of what beer is supposed to be.

    These attitudes are beginning to change, and will continue to do so, but we may still be a long way off from the time when people will generally recognize that beer can be a sensory experience every bit as complex and rewarding as wine, and with a much more diverse range of flavors. I've tried on multiple occasions to get my wine-drinking dad to try to appreciate the nuance from a pour of complex and intense beers. Parabola, Better Half, Rochefort 10, KBS - all were basically shrugged off, even after I instructed him to taste beer as he would wine. I will continue trying but am all but certain it is in vain. It is this type of attitude that needs changinbg before we can really see beer replace wine as both a higher-end sensory experience, as well as a proper accompaniment for food.

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