Over the past few years, as more and more Americans embrace wine, two words were bandied around with great frequency. These sacred words were "premiumization" and "affordable luxury." Premiumization meant that we, wine drinkers, were steadily trading up, spending more on average per bottle of wine purchased. And compared to treating ourselves to a new bag or pair of shoes, wine became a very affordable luxury.
But is it still affordable for you? Over the past decade wine has become increasingly integrated into the lives of American consumers.
Whether winding down after a long week at work, meeting friends at a bar, or accompanying a meal at home or in a restaurant we have been drinking more wine and better wine.
The United States is the largest (by value) wine market in the world, and it has enjoyed uninterrupted growth over the past 15 years. In 2008, it was valued at over $300 billion and per capita consumption passed the 3 gallon mark for the first time. As we tread cautiously into 2009, we wonder about the impact of the recession on wine consumption. While restaurants and retailers are suffering and consumers are cutting back, there is a firm belief that we will continue to drink wine, and that growth, while predicted to be more modest, will still be positive.
I'd love to hear from you on how the recession is changing your wine drinking habits. Do you still buy wine? Is it still an affordable luxury? Are you trading down? Are you consuming more at home and less in restaurants? Are you sticking with a few familiar favorites, or experimenting with new regions offering better value?
In our house, we are certainly, more careful about what we spend. We are eating out less and entertaining more at home. And while, we are comparing prices more carefully, we still support our local wine stores. We want them to survive, so that when the economy gets better, we still have a buoyant local community.
Three great value and great tasting wines that we enjoyed last week were:
• 2007 La Framboisière Côtes du Rhone, France $15 - Enjoyed at a friend's house. Smooth, rich, spicy and went so well with the Goulash made by our friends (and hosts) Lia and Carter.
• 2007 Navarro Correas Malbec, Argentina $11 - Deciding that I did not taste enough Malbec, I bought this and it was just the match for a yummy Shepherd's Pie. Brimming with ripe soft red bramble fruits and spicy, peppery notes.
• 2007 Las Brisos Rueda, Spain $12 - Delightful light and refreshing Spanish white made from a blend of Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura. Great on its own or with lighter dishes. We had it with linguine and clams.
Looking forward to hearing about what changes (or not) that you've made to your wine buying patterns.
Until next week, keep seeking out the great value wines that do exist out there.
Related: Cheap Wines for Tough Times
(Image: Flickr member cafemama licensed for use under Creative Commons)