Americans are continuing our love affair with wine as 2014 arrives, but we may love beer and spirits even more. Here’s what’s trending in drinks:
• We love wine: We drank more last year for the 19th year in a row – up 2 percent to 360 million 12-bottle cases, according to wine consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
• We love American wine: California makes 58 percent of all the wine we drink
• We know what we like: Here’s what we bought in shops and supermarkets: 21 percent chardonnay; 12 percent cabernet sauvignon; 9 percent merlot; 8 percent pinot grigio or pinot gris; 6 percent moscato; 5 percent sweet red wines; and 1 percent malbec, according to Nielsen, consumer sales consultants.
• We’re not spending the farm on wine. Forty-eight percent of all wine purchased in U.S. shops and supermarkets cost $5 to $11; only 4 percent was $20 and over, The Wall Street Journal reported.
• Wine is still playing catch-up as a national pastime drink. Americans drank $99 billion worth of beer and $69 billion worth of spirits in 2012, but only $37 billion of wine, a Gallup poll said.
• Craft beer is coming on strong. It rose 15 percent in 2012 while regular beer was up only 1 percent, the Brewers Association said.
• It’s a battle. Regular beer outsold craft beer 15 bottles to one last year. But overall U.S. per-capita consumption of all beer dropped from 25 gallons in 1981 to 20 gallons in 2012.
• Spirits, especially expensive ones, are gaining. Irish whiskey grew 18 percent in 2012, Gallup said. Bourbon was up 4.5 percent.
• In all of our drinks, we’ve taken to heart that old Super Bowl ad in which a fan whined, “I can’t taste my light beer.” Now we’re demanding more flavor.
• In beer, we seek craft brews with insane amounts of bitter hops. Other flavorful brews include Leinenkugel’s Orange Shandy and MillerCoors’ Redd’s Apple Ale, says Shanken News Daily website. Samuel Adams has released a winter ale called Cold Snap, flavored with anise, hibiscus, orange peel, coriander and dried plums.
• In wine, an old cliché says people talk dry but drink sweet. It may be true. The fastest growing varieties in 2012 were moscato, usually sweet, up 33 percent, and sweet reds, up 22 percent, Nielsen said.
• In spirits, Irish whiskeys are growing, in part through pumping up flavors by infusing honey and other flavors, says Impact Databank. Pinnacle’s flavored vodkas rose 14 percent, it said, with offerings like cinnamon vodka, in partnership with Cinnabon.
• Constellation’s Black Velvet Canadian whisky has a toasted caramel flavor that grew 5 percent in 2012, Shanken said. Crown Royal offers maple flavor, and Brown-Forman added peach and vanilla flavors.
• Also, Beam Inc. has released a new version of its Courvoisier Cognac blended with red wine, and one blended with moscato, Shanken said.
• Finally in our search for more flavor, we’re turning to hard cider. The U.S. market’s top 10 cider brands grew by 63 percent in 2012, Shanken says.
• 2011 Silver Palm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and spice, ripe tannins; $22.
• 2012 La Crema Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast: aromas and flavors of ripe apples, pears and lemons, spicy finish; $23.
• Angry Orchard “Green Apple” Hard Cider, Washington State: crisp and tart, with intense green apple flavors, dry finish; $8-$10 per six-pack.
• Samuel Adams “Cold Snap” Ale: crisp and savory, with complex, darkly herbal and floral flavors; $8-$10 per six-pack.
• 2012 Tomero Malbec, Mendoza, Arg.: inky hue, aromas and flavors of black plums and black pepper; $17.
Fred Tasker has retired from the Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.