Tuesday, July 19, 2005

America - a nation of winos

I ran across this article on Totalfark earlier this morning. Supposedly, according to a Gallup poll, wine is now the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.

First of all - I can't imagine that this is true - did Gallup poll only suburban housewives? Because in many places in this country, Boone's Farm and Arbor Mist are still what is understood to be wine. And the real Americans, red-blooded specimens that they are, drink beer. And by beer, they don't mean heffeweizens and microbrews, but Miller, Coors, Bud and PBR. So where are all these winos?

I see a lot of hefty wine drinkers in my milieu. But I don't exactly consider my milieu to be the average American setting. I hang out with the spawn of yuppies, and yuppy wannabes who swill down wine like there's no tomorrow, either because they saw their parents doing it, or because they think that's what's the in thing. Most of them couldn't tell you the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot, let alone between an Amarone and a Chianti.

The side effect of the rise in the number of nascent wine snobs is that the prices of certain wines have skyrocketed as they become more trendy. Take South African wines. When I was a youngster in undergrad, you could still get excellent South African wines at ridiculously low prices. Seemingly overnight, they went from being affordable on a student budget to being overpriced. Or let's take the lofty West Coast pinot noir - once almost unobtainable since it was unknown outside of the region, today you're lucky to find one under $30. Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of cheaper good pinot noirs and South African wines - but why sell them when the people buying the wine think that price is the ultimate indicator of quality.

I remember reading a few years back that certain vineyards in California were making such tiny quantities of wine that they were selling for over $500 - for no reason other than their scarcity. Of course, this was during the dot com bubble, and I think the bottom probably fell out on most of those bizarrely overpriced estate wines.

So (in short - after that little ranting tangent) maybe wine is really popular among a certain subset of people. But I'll take this poll result with a heaping tablespoon of salt. I believe that there are heaps of people in this country who wouldn't touch wine with a ten-foot pole. Wine with BBQ? Sacrilege! Burgers and wine? Might as well call yourself a traitor and head on down to Gitmo.


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