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What Wine is Favorite Now? You May be Surprised by the Answer.

Ten years ago we here at California Bottle of Wine reported the most popular wine by sales volume in America was Pinot Noir. This makes sense because it’s a softer red wine drawing white wine drinkers into the red zone.

However, ten years later that number is substantially different. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay lead the pack in volume sales while Pinot Noir is seven notches down from the top.

Here are the raw numbers of million cases sold in 2020*:

Cabernet Sauvignon 32m cases

Chardonnay 28.3m cases

Red Blends 19.6m cases

Sauvignon Blanc 10.8m cases (up 22%)

Muscato/Muscat 10.7m cases

Merlot 9.9m cases

Pinot Noir 9.8m Cases

Rose 5.97m cases (up 20%)

Malbec 2.56m cases

So 2020 was a year Cabernet Sauvignon took over the lead. Even Pinot Grigio, Muscato & Merlot out sell Pinot Noir.

We’re thinking this is because of demographic shifts as the millennial generation shift from beer and seltzer to wine. Chardonnay, Rose & Sauvignon Blanc consumption has grown as these younger drinkers’ palates change. But these are not all the answers. There is missing data here.

One way of viewing this is a survey querying age groups on what BYOB they bring to a party**. If you are:

65+ – 49% wine, 18% beer

55+ – 30% wine, 29% beer, 16% spirits

45+ – 30% wine, 26% beer, 10% spirits, 10% hard cider

35+ – 28% wine, 29% beer, 13% spirits, 9% cider

21+ – 15% wine, 20% beer, 17% spirits, 17% malt beverage, 16% hard seltzer, 9% hard cider

Many prognosticators think this shows a weak future for wine sales and enjoyment of vino. But, they miss an important point assuming youthful consumer behavior is static, that it’s a linear graph line that never changes. But we know better. All age group’s behavior is dynamic and will change over time. In fact, hard seltzer sales are declining and Molsen & Boston Beer Company have announced declining revenue because of these changes. We sample wine among many young groups while visiting wineries. This won’t change.

Past generations’ drinking habits have shifted from beer to spirits to wine as they grow older. And of course now you need to factor recreational marijuana into this equation stealing market share from all adult beverages.

We predict consumption volumes will follow past consumer behavior as young people grow older and middle age folks climb up the age ladder. These folks will pick up the gauntlet and enjoy the average volume of wine as well. What’s the US average consumption….3.18 gallons yearly……That’s 15.84 bottles!

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

Bill & Erin Hodge write about California Wine, the estates & winemakers producing them and educational information about Vino. Living in California Wine Country provides a front row seat to the places you want to visit the most here in the Golden State.

– -✰  means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰  means -Not liking it too much
✰ means  -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+  with a slash, it means we disagree.

*Nielsen data November 28, 2020 ** Harris Poll November 2011