Chart of the Day: A Good Year for Wine

The battle between beer and wine got a little closer this year. Over the past few decades, Americans have named beer as their adult beverage of choice, according to Gallup. But in its 2011 survey, wine and beer are neck and neck. This is kind of surprising for a few reasons.

Here's the chart:

winebeer 2011.gif

As you can see, the lowest percentage of respondents had a preference for beer as Gallup has seen over this twenty-year period. Meanwhile, wine had its second-best year, in terms of popularity. This resulted in a mere 1% edge for beer over wine.

One hypothesis for why this might be happening could be the aging population. Maybe as people grow older, they begin to joy a more sophisticated beverage. But digging deeper into Gallup's numbers shows that the opposite effect caused the decline of beer and the rise of wine in 2011. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, the preference for beer plummeted from 51% in 2010 to 39% this year.* Meanwhile, the group's preference for wine rose from 24% to 29% over the same period.

From an economic perspective, this result is a bit surprising. Wine and liquor are generally more expensive than beer. In a weak economy, you might think that penny-pinching Americans would prefer the cheap stuff. But then, perhaps they're finding their money goes farther by having to consume less wine or liquor to, er, achieve their intoxicating side-effects.

Whatever the reason, is this good or bad news for wine lovers? You could see it either way. On one hand, as demand for wine rises and supply remains unchanged, prices will increase in the short-term. On the other hand, as winemakers sense more demand, they'll produce more in the long-term. So additional vineyards and obscure varietals could result if wine's popularity increases. Of course, this assumes that wine's popularity will continue to rise.

* I wonder why Gallup asked 18- to 20-year-olds about their preference here. After all, it is technically illegal for them to consume alcoholic beverages. Obviously, that doesn't stop some of them! 

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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