So Who Is the American Wine Consumer?

December 13th, 2008 • No Comments
The American Wine Consumer?

The American Wine Consumer?

Editing my first Chapter of my book I Drink On the Job I realized that I’ve met thousands of first-time newbie wine drinkers, but I know very little about their demographics and characteristics except for two facts: they have high incomes and they are well educated.  But what does that mean? 

My Wine Basics 101 class has taught literally thousands of people in the Washington, D.C. area about wine and the wine culture, but most of the information I have on the consumers attending is only anecdotal.  So I always ask people, what was your first wine experience that made you want to learn more about wine?  The answers vary quite a bit, but I’ve come up with a “picture” of the general newbie wine drinker in the DC area:

  1. Well-traveled or at least has been outside the U.S. a few times,
  2. Enjoys good cuisine and likes to eat in a variety of restaurants,
  3. College educated and very likely an advanced degree as well,
  4. White collar worker with a decent income

So the criteria is income, education, likes to eat and travel, that’s a good start to figuring out who is and who isn’t a consumer wine drinker.  This also fits across the U.S., I’m pretty sure no matter what city you travel to here from LA to Portland, to Miami and back to DC, you will find a similar type person drinking wine.  So how is this signficant to my book?  I base my book on the European concept of food and wine: food and wine were meant to be consumed together, and wine is simply part of most meals.  A truck driver in France will grab a glass of wine with his cafeteria lunch just like an office worker might grab a glass with lunch at a cafe–drinking wine is simply no big deal and no major decision in most of Europe, particularly France, Italy and Spain.

I’ll leave with this thought: many Americans drink wine for a variety of reasons such as its sophisticated, complex and it is the drink of choice at formal affairs; their European counterpart barely differentiates the experience of drinking wine from grabbing a baguette!  Another factor to consider of course is that a standard glass of wine in France is a few dollars or so, about the cost of a Coke, while in the U.S. most wines by the glass sell for around $7 or more.  This may not seem like a big deal, but the markup in wine here is so high that it becomes clear why American wine drinkers need to have more disposable income: it simply costs more in the U.S. than Europe to enjoy the wine lifestyle..

Almost forgot, some workplaces in Europe allow workers to drink wine as part of their lunch, but that’s a separate Blog entry – cheers!

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

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