Monday, September 27, 2021

Per capita US wine consumption, by state

We are often told about how much wine each of the people in any given geographical area drink, or sometimes beer, or spirits. However, this is vitiated by the fact that each area has a different number of people. The people of Sweden, for example, are not likely to drink as much as the people of New York state, because there are only half as many of them. Similarly, of course, we all drink more wine now than before, because there are more people now.

So, what we need to do is work out consumption per person, at each time, in each region. This is the per capita consumption, which we get by dividing the volume of consumption by the population size.

There are official data for yearly wine consumption per capita in the USA, as a whole, going back as far as the end of Prohibition. The source I have used for the first graph is the Wine Institute. The graph shows the data for consumption of “all wine types including sparkling wine, dessert wine, vermouth, other special natural and table wine”, and using the Bureau of the Census’s data for the resident population size. Per capita consumption would, of course, be slightly greater if based only on people of legal drinking age.

The data show average wine consumption in liters per person (vertically) for every year (horizontally). To convert liters to bottles, if that is what you prefer, we need to multiply by 1.3.

US per capita wine consumption

While the trend is basically upwards through time, towards more consumption per person, there are a number of interesting features. For example, note the sudden increase in 1946, the year after World War II ended, and the sudden increase in 2020, the first year of the current pandemic — the same response, but under two very different circumstances. The 2020 burst has been commented upon repeatedly in the media, across several countries. Whether it continues throughout 2021 may depend on global supply chains (The next pandemic-related shortage? Wine and liquor).

Obviously, wine consumption increased rapidly after the end of Prohibition, with a bit of a dip during the War; but consumption then plateaued during the 1950s and early 1960s. There was then a steady increase from 1965 to 1985, which was certainly a different time for American society — officially, the births of the Baby Boomer generation ended in 1965, when the first of that cohort reached adulthood. So, we now know that they were bigger boozers than were the Silent Generation (before them). The mid-80s downturn coincides with the Generation X cohort arriving at adulthood — to this day, they remain a commercial problem for the wine industry.

The continued rise in wine consumption since the mid 1990s is sometimes attributed to the increasing popularity of the so-called Mediterranean Diet (eg. American wine consumption per capita since 1994):
Since 1994, American wine consumption has experienced year over year growth. Many attribute the sparking of this phenomena to an event that happened a little less than three years prior. In November 1991, 60 Minutes aired a report about French diets and heart disease rates: American and French researchers interviewed by 60 Minutes pointed to an apparent relationship between moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, and a lower rate of heart disease.
This rise has reached a plateau since 2015 (with the exception of 2020), representing the trend toward alcohol moderation among younger generations. The current average consumption is c. 14.5 bottles of wine per person per year, or 1 bottle every 3.5 weeks.

We could now move on to look in more detail at the per capita consumption in 2019, the most recent “normal” year. We can break this down by US state, using data from the AAWE (Per capita wine consumption in the United States, 2019). The data in this next table show the liters of wine consumed per person during that year, for each territory separately, plus the national average.

US per capita wine consumption by state

To make the general patterns clear, I have also added an indication of the geographical location of each area, which frequently coincides with societal differences. These are basically the official US Census Regions and Divisions.

It is pretty obvious, isn't it? The big wine boozers are in the north-east of the country, and a fair part of the west. The south and mid-west are much more moderate in their wine intake — they are, however, known to prefer some other alcoholic beverages, instead. The fact that D.C. is way out in front surprises nobody — at c. 39 bottles of wine per person per year, that is 1 bottle every 9 days, which might actually be quite moderate consumption for a bureaucrat. It seems likely that the retirees of Florida came from up north somewhere, and brought their wine habit with them. Moreover, it looks like the people of Maryland and Pennsylvania could usefully be targeted by wine salespersons.

An alternative view of similar data from 2018 is provided by VinePair, who plot their data as a map, instead.

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