Nectar of the Gods

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To the Editors of American Demographics:

I work for a company that promotes Australian wine in the United States. I'm looking for statistics on Americans' wine consumption and qualitative analysis about what residents of your country think of when they hear the word “celebration?� Do you have any information on Americans' opinion of wine, and how knowledgeable they are at selecting wines?

Chris Maguire

Executive Producer

Gently Eccentric Productions

Haberfield, NSW


Dear Chris:

That's a tall order, but I'll try my best to whet your whistle. The good news is that retail sales of wine in the U.S. reached a record $19 billion in 2000, up from $11.7 billion in 1990, according to the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. In fact, last year, Americans consumed 565 million gallons of wine, enough to supply every man, woman, and child with two gallons (and a sip) apiece. While that rate of consumption may sound like a cry for help to the folks at the Betty Ford Clinic, Americans, compared to other nationals, are practically teetotalers: Internationally, the United States ranks 36th in per capita wine consumption (just behind Canada and ahead of Ireland), an indication that the market is ripe for growth.

The bad news is that you will face a couple of hurdles if you want to increase Americans' consumption of Australian wines. According to Simmons Market Research Bureau, only 33 percent of American adults drink wine, and of those, about a third (37 percent) drink more than four glasses — roughly equal to one bottle — a month. Another obstacle — and perhaps the greatest challenge for you Aussies — is that a majority of American wine drinkers seem quite content with their homegrown varieties. In fact, 95 percent imbibe domestic wine, while only 37 percent knock back the imports. Furthermore, the Wine Institute reports that only 22 percent of all wine sold in the U.S. in 2000 came from a foreign country.

Perhaps you just need to spread the word. According to an exclusive online survey conducted by Buzzback, a market research firm in New York City, 52 percent of respondents were not familiar with Australian wines, while only 5 percent were unfamiliar with French wines.*

Regardless of the country of origin, wine conjures up all the feelings in Americans you might expect. According to Buzzback, people think wine is a “romantic,� “intimate,� and “relaxing,� beverage to be consumed during social gatherings or on special occasions. Indeed, 88 percent of respondents said they enjoy a glass of vino when celebrating. Yet, a handful of those surveyed noted that for them, celebrations call for champagne rather than wine. Furthermore, when asked the “primary� reason they drink wine, only 13 percent said they do so to commemorate a special occasion or to celebrate. Most respondents said they drink wine mainly to complement a meal or to unwind and relax.

Oh, and here's one for the road: Simmons says that more Americans drink white wine than red wine (75 percent vs. 54 percent). Might I suggest a nice chardonnay to begin your campaign?

John Fetto

Research Editor

*Methodology note: While this survey has a broad range of respondents, the results are not representative of the entire U. S. population. It is only representative of the 404 online respondents.

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