Should You Be Drinking American Wine?

Apr 23, 2024by Andrew Lowry

Two months ago, Patrick Cappiello issued a rallying cry for Americans to support their country's wineries by drinking only American wine for 60 days. His impassioned plea highlighted the dire straits facing U.S. winemakers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 20% sales slump, coupled with overproduction, has created a perilous situation of excess supply and plummeting demand. Cappiello's "drink local" challenge was a valiant effort to avert bankruptcies across America's Winelands.

Troubling Numbers for American Vineyards

The statistics are sobering. The pandemic's economic toll saw U.S. wine sales plummet from $69.5 billion in 2019 to just $57.1 billion in 2020, according to data from Wine Vines Analytics. Meanwhile, vineyards were already bracing for an oversupply crisis, with 2020 production up 14% over the previous year. This toxic combination of slack demand and a grape glut could shutter wineries across the nation.

Inflationary Pressures Mount

To make matters worse, American winemakers face mounting inflationary pressures. The annual Wine Industry Metrics report revealed that bottles, labor, and transportation costs have all surged in the double-digits over the past year. Without an uptick in consumer demand, wineries simply cannot absorb these rising expenditures.

Gen Z: America's Vinous Saviors?

However, a vinous cavalry may be riding to the rescue. Generation Z, the young adults currently aged 21-25, are emerging as a powerful force in reshaping America's wine landscape. Despite their tender years, this group is displaying an impressively sophisticated and socially-conscious palate. Numerous surveys indicate Gen Zers actively seek out locally-sourced, sustainable products - precisely the values that small U.S. wineries embody.

What's more, Generation Z is statistically less likely to binge drink than their millennial predecessors. Instead, they prefer to sip and savor high-quality wines, gravitating towards unique, artisanal offerings from family vineyards. If courted properly by U.S. winemakers, Gen Z could become America's most patriotic oenophiles.

The Cultural Kaleidoscope: Drinking the World's Wines

While supporting American wineries is a laudable goal, the great beauty of living in the United States is our smorgasbord of cultural options when it comes to food and drink. We need not resign ourselves to a vinous monoculture simply out of a sense of patriotic duty. The glory of this nation is that one night, we can delight our palates with the haunting, spice-laced reds of Navarra, Spain and the next transportwe can to Tuscany via a powerhouse Brunello.

The American Dream has long been a metaphoric melting pot, absorbing the flavors and traditions of the world into our culinary canvas. From tender, unctuous Peking duck to vibrant yellow curries ablaze with lemongrass and kaffirlime, pan-global gastronomy is a birthright we'd be foolish to renounce. Just as we feast from the planet's smorgasbord, so too can we delve into the vinous gems of France, Italy, South America, Australia, and beyond.

A Night in America's Tasting Rooms (or Living Rooms)

That said, there is perhaps no better intersection of America's trailblazing spirit and agricultural bounty than its world-class wines. From the brooding Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa to the ethereal Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, the United States is awash in iconic bottles that transcend international boundaries. When we uncork a bold Zinfandel or luxurious Chardonnay, we're not just imbibing - we're taking part in a celebration of American grit, ingenuity, and terroir.

Even as our delight in global vinous exploration, savoring domestic wines allows us to revel in our patriotic heritage while supporting small, family-run businesses. No import can quite capture the sun-drenched eucalyptus and cap gun smoke of a great Sonoma red. Likewise, one whiff of a minerally Sancerre may spirit us to the Loire Valley, but a crisp Willamette Valley Pinot Gris keeps our senses rooted in the verdant Pacific Northwest.

The Best of Both Worlds

When Cappiello urged us to keep our Cabernet cravings state-side for two months, his exhortation tapped into something quintessentially American: our bullish loyalty and hardscrabble ethos of supporting homegrown enterprises. Yet, we needn't forsake the treasures of Europe and the Southern Hemisphere in order to honor that call. The United States' unique charm is that it's a gorgeous, polychromatic tapestry - tonally contrast-stitched with beers from Belgium, wines from Sicily, and dreamyfusion fare from every longitude.

Like thoroughbred Americans, we can delight in life's abundant pleasures while proudly raising a toast to our national winemakers. Patriotism and cosmopolitanism are not mutually exclusive zones on the tongue's terrain. Quite the contrary, they make for intriguingly harmonic drinking partners. So by all means, sniff, swirl, and sip America's bounty. But there's no need to stop there. The world - in liquid, fermented form - awaits.

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