Wine Winning More Men, But Losing 30- and 40-Somethings

Posted by | Posted in Commentary | Posted on 08-07-2013

Wine versus beer: it’s the presidential race of alcohol consumption.

When Gallup’s  latest poll revealed a tie in consumer preference for beer or wine, Wine Spectator resounded with Wine Challenges Beer as America’s Drink of Choice — a headline that could have found a home in Politico last November, plus or minus a few proper nouns.

If we learned anything from the 2012 elections, it’s that we can’t talk victory or defeat without also talking demographics. So let’s take a look at the growing base of wine lovers.

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 5.15.08 PM

The chart above shows the demographic groups in which wine has made the greatest relative gains. This doesn’t capture the fact that, in absolute terms, a greater share of whites (36%) than nonwhites (34%) now prefer wine. Nor does it tell us that more men prefer beer (53%) or liquor (22%) to wine (20%). But you can glean that stuff elsewhere.

What this chart tells us is that, in the past twenty years, wine has made the greatest inroads among nonwhites, men, and the under-30 crowd. Thirty- and 40-somethings were the only demographic that saw a decrease in the share who prefer wine.

This is interesting for two reasons.

First, those middle-aged Americans who lost interest in wine joined their peers who lost interest in beer and headed straight for the liquor cabinet. I’m inclined to blame this on the pressures of modern-day child rearing. (In the comments, please let us know what you think caused this change in drinking preferences!)

This chart is also interesting because some sources have made much of the fact that a greater share of women prefer wine than men. Yes, this is true. But 20 years ago, 15% of men preferred wine; now, 20% do. That’s 33% increase from the 1992 figure, whereas the increase in the share of women who preferred wine then and now is 21%.

The lesson is that, even among groups that don’t usually prefer wine, the preference for wine is growing — sometimes in greater proportion than it is among those whom we consider more inclined to sip a good Merlot.

I’d give wine the wine industry the same advice my mother gives me: Don’t give up on men.