Is the Wine Industry in Trouble?

A few recent surveys suggest wine has lost its footing amongst drinkers

Several bottles in a wine shop -- wine interest in the U.S. is declining
U.S. drinkers prefer beer and spirits over wine
Klara Kulikova / Unsplash

According to a new Consumption Habits poll by Gallup, beer and spirits are outpacing wine in the hearts and palates of U.S. drinkers, with the survey offering a number of additionally concerning statistics for the wine world. In a survey taken in July, consumers favor beer by a margin of 37% compared to spirits (31%) and wine (29%). That’s the first time spirits have passed wine in 30 years (per The Spirits Business). As recently as 2013, wine was essentially tied with beer atop the consumption habits survey. As well, this is the first time wine has fallen below 30% since 1996.

It gets worse: younger drinkers (oddly here defined as 18-34, even though Gallup was polling U.S. adults) prefer beer and spirits to wine, with wine only finding favor over spirits among adults aged 55 and over. This news corresponds to other recent findings. The market research firm Mintel recently stated that while wine sales are growing in the United States, that number is “largely attributed to inflated price points” — they noted a slight decline in demand.

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So, what’s the reasoning? Besides big factors such as climate change, tariffs and inflation, Mintel notes wine might have an image issue. “[Wine] falls significantly short in being associated with fun and adventure,” they write. “Consumers’ current lifestyles, mindsets and drinking occasions are prioritizing fun over formality, thus, brands must find ways to rewire how and when consumers think about and use wine.”

Making wine more consumer-friendly may also involve rethinking how it’s sold, particularly to younger drinkers. Wine stores are confusing and online wine retailers lack a personal touch (and have inventory issues). One promising newcomer to the space is taste56, a just-opened Brooklyn wine merchant that organizes their vino by “Palate Character,” where wines are grouped together based on characteristics of the wine rather than grape varietal or geographical region. More outside-the-box thinking like this — or even more emphasis on trendy in-the-box wine — may be necessary.


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