In recent years, many in the wine industry - producers, sommeliers, beverage directors and the like - have fretted that the boom in interest in cocktails and spirits, not to mention craft beer, threatens the continued growth of wine consumption in America. But a just-released report from an industry group indicates there’s not much to fear.
“Overall we found...that increases in the consumption of wine, beer, or spirits, is a benefit to all in the beverage industry,” said John Gillespie, president of Wine Market Council, discussing the report based on input from members of the U.S. wine trade including sommeliers that work on-premise, as well as beverage professionals and mixologists. The council conducted two online discussion groups to gain insight into the relationship of wine, craft beer and cocktails.
“They don’t think the rise of craft beer or cocktails should have the wine industry ‘running scared’ and the overall sentiment was that wine will always have a place at the table,” said Gillespie.
Most discussion participants also felt craft beer and wine can be complementary beverages, with the approach of the venue dictating whether one prevails or the other. Higher end restaurants tend to be wine-dominant, while beer is frequently a wine substitute at bars, lower-end restaurants, and those serving ethnic food that pairs well with beer. Also influential can be the wine-to-beer ratio of a wine list – customers may defer to wine on a wine-heavy list, or to beer on a beer-heavy list.
Other key findings from the “On-Premise Discussion Group Study Report” include:
The larger the group of drinkers, the wider the variety of beverages ordered. The more casual the occasion, the more interchangeable are wine, beer, and spirits. In addition, discussion participants believed that consumers spend more per drink the more special the occasion, whatever the beverage.
The fact that craft beer typically costs less than a glass of wine or a cocktail is a possible reason for some customers to select beer instead of wine or a cocktail, which the discussion participants took to mean that craft beer drinkers tend not to be high-end wine buyers. Wine and cocktail drinkers are typically thought to be willing to spend more money on drinks than craft beer drinkers.
The discussion groups focused on the role occasion plays in beverage choices; whether craft beer and cocktails are complementary or a substitute for wine; the crossover of craft beer drinkers, cocktail drinkers, and high frequency wine drinkers and/or high-end wine buyers; the other types of beer consumed by craft beer drinkers; and predictions for future craft beer, wine, and cocktail consumption.
The full study is available to Wine Market Council members.