The folks at [yellow tail] helpfully conducted an [online survey] of American wine drinkers recently, and the findings are depressing for wine producers -- unless you're [yellow tail].
The purpose was to position Yellow Tail Reserve as a special occasion wine, so you have to consider the results in that light. However, I don't see any reason to doubt these numbers; they seem right.
The most interesting answer came to this question: "If you are are entertaining at home to celebrate 'Life's Little Special Occasions,' how much would you spend on a bottle of wine?" (That's their wording, not mine. Reminds me of The Simpsons' dog.)
$3 - $5.99 3%
$6 - $9.99 15%
$10 - $14.99 43%
$15 - $19.99 25%
$20 and up 14%
Wow, Americans are cheap! I feel sorry for the fully 18% of Americans who think a special occasion wine is something under $10. Sure, there are decent wines in that price range (Vinho Verde!), but splurge wines?
More significant is that a plurality of folks think going up into 4 digits marks a special occasion. That just makes me sad, because to me the sweet spot for good value and interesting wines of terroir is about $15 - $25.
What this poll explains is why so many cheap wines have pretentious subtitles: "Vintners Reserve" or "Private Selection." They're selling an illusion. It's like a funeral in a trailer park, with everyone in shiny suits and clip-on ties.
It also means that every winery in Napa Valley and Oregon and Burgundy and other regions that don't really make cheap wines are competing for just 14% of wine drinkers. I suppose that's not surprising.
But it does make me reflect on writing about wine. I'm doing a piece on Burgundy for Wine Review Online right now, and I didn't know what the wines cost when I tasted them. So I look them up and discover that even an Auxey-Duresses, not a fancy region, that I loved costs $44. And that Batard-Montrachet that was so nice? $235. I don't think anybody would spend that kind of money on my recommendation alone.
Yet I'm not unusual. The great majority of stories about wine are about wines over $20, because they're usually the wines with the most interesting tales to tell -- plus they're more likely to be good. As a group, wine writers are writing 86% of our stories about wines that only 14% of Americans will ever drink.