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 U.S. drinking more wine American consumption hits peak, trade group reports.
 Horton 2001 Orange County Virginia Viognier ($12) Quality Viognier from an East Coast producer.
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U.S. drinking more wine

Americans are drinking more wine these days, a commercial wine-industry trade group reports.

The hypothetical "average American adult" drank almost 3 gallons of wine last year, or about 16 standard bottles, a level of consumption that the Palm Springs-based Adams Beverage Group declares the highest since 1989; that earlier peak, however, reflected that era's affection for wine-flavored "wine coolers."

Last year's consumption, Adams spokesman Tiziana Mohorovic said in a press release, was driven by a broad increase in sales of dry table wines, "specifically varietals of all kinds and from countries around the world."

"Consumers are eating out more and enjoying wine as an accompaniment to their food. Wines by the glass and half bottles, along with a plethora of label choices from around the world, have made wine more accessible and affordable," the news release continued. "Home entertaining also has been increasing, and consumers are experimenting with a range of wine styles and price points. Wine continues to benefit from the airing of 'the French Paradox' on 60 Minutes in 1991 and subsequent media attention that has focused on the apparent health benefits of moderate red wine consumption."

Imported wine sales increased 11.3 percent last year, while - a cautionary note for the domestic industry - sales of wines made in the U.S. rose only 3.4 percent.

While industry sales executives celebrate, it's worth bearing in mind that - despite the press statement's joyous declaration that "Wine Becomes Mainstream" - per capita consumption in the U.S. lags far behind that of our cousins in Europe. The average French or Italian adult opens up to 80 bottles of wine every year, although consumption has been falling off in recent times; Australians knock back 24 bottles annually per capita, and it's 16 bottles a year per grown-up in the U.K.

And of course the fact remains that most of us who are reading this article open far more than our share.

Adams Beverage Group,, describes itself as "The information source for the beverage alcohol industry." Details of its study are contained in a hefty volume, Wine Handbook 2004, that contains extensive information about wine sales and trends and sells for a cool $595. I think I'll wait for the Reader's Digest condensed edition.

For detailed statistics about wine consumption around the world, visit the California Wine Institute's data pages,

Finally, if you would like to comment further about this topic (or other wine-related issues), you'll find a round-table online discussion about it in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

I made my personal contribution to keeping the U.S. statistics up this week by pulling a cork from this first-rate Viognier from Horton Vineyards, one of Virginia's best-known and respected producers and one of the few Old Dominion wineries whose products at least sporadically make it into other states.

Horton Horton 2001 Orange County Virginia Viognier ($12)

This clear and very pale greenish-gold wine's exceptionally pleasant aroma defines the perfumed floral scent of Viognier with just a whiff of spice. Its full flavor is crisp and citric, white fruit nicely balanced by fresh acidity. Dry and tangy citric notes and delicate spice linger in a long finish. A fine expression of Viognier, a wine that needn't be dismissed as "good for an Eastern wine" but just plain "good." (Sept. 8, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: I gravitate toward pork dishes with Viognier, particularly if they're accented with aromatic (not fiery) spices. This one worked very well with pork-and-veal burgers laced with piquant South African Peppadew-brand red peppers. Another excellent Viognier match: Smoked salmon.

VALUE: The winery's suggested retail price is $20, which is a bit cheeky for a Virginia wine but not out of line in competition with quality West Coast Viogniers. It's available in the lower teens at many retailers, at which price point it's a very good bargain indeed.

WHEN TO DRINK: With few exceptions, Viognier is a wine to drink not to age; enjoy it over the next year or two while it's still fresh.

Viognier = Vee-ohn-yay

WEB LINK: Horton's Website offers plenty of information about the winery and its wines, but the fact sheets on specific wines appear to be out of date. It's one of those sites that wants to play background music on every page, but you can make it quit by clicking your browser's "Stop" button.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The Horton Website offers direct sales from the winery but not online sales. A toll-free (in the U.S.) telephone number is provided for information on sales and shipment where the law allows, 1-800-829-4633. The Website also lists information on retail sources in Virginia and wholesale distributors in some other U.S. states. Also, to find vendor and price information for Horton on, click

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Friday, Sept. 10, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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