America’s voters have opted for a very different future. Their attitude to wine seems to be changing too.

As much of the world focused its attention on the US in 2016, the Wine Intelligence team have also been focusing on the world’s number one wine market – one that, if you’ll excuse the pun, trumps all others in terms of volume and value.

The US has been showing a steady annual volume growth rate of 1% for the past 5 years. With a consumption rate of just over 12 liters per adult per year and 60% of US adults currently abstaining from wine, it has long been thought of as a market with significant growth potential.

However, as shown in our US Landscapes 2016 report, we can see a newer trend displayed in the US market which may disrupt this ongoing growth pattern. Two measures suggest that the US market for wine may have peaked – or at least paused. There has been a reduction in the average consumption per head of wine in the last few years, coupled with a reduction in the number of very frequent wine drinkers – that is, those drinking wine on a near daily basis.

When exploring how wine consumers are approaching the category, we can identify a growing sense of adventure on the part of most of these consumers. They are now exploring niche varietals, along with wine from a more diverse range of wine regions, more frequently. They have a heightened interest in newer-to-market, smaller wine brands and find themselves more influenced by label design than before.

However the frequency with which consumers are drinking wine is falling, as it is in many developed world markets, as the opportunities (and motivations) to drink wine shrink with increasing health concerns and worries about drinking and driving, among other things.

The idea of wine as a more occasional, notable drink is partly what is driving significant growth in the sparkling wine category, led by Prosecco (as in many other markets). Another measure of market maturity is the increasing acceptance of screw-caps by American consumers.

US wine consumers are evolving alongside the market, where the proportion of older wine drinkers aged over 55 is growing. If one thing is for certain, it is that a steady rise does not spell uniform stability – the giant that is the US is stirring not only in the arena of politics but also in the world of wine, and this has big consequences for the trade.

Author: David Thompson