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August 11, 2010

The Grape Escape: Are you tasting your share?

Americans aren’t doing their part in the worldwide wine-consumption sweepstakes. According to the Wine Institute, a trade association of mostly larger California wine producers, the United States ranks fourth in international wine production. But when it comes to per capita wine consumption, we stand at a dismal 34th.

For all the wine we make, only a small percentage of us enjoy it regularly. Teetotalers and people who drink wine only occasionally drag our average down to just two gallons (10 bottles) per year. Compare that with 16 gallons (80 bottles) consumed annually by the thirsty folks in Luxembourg; France, Italy and Portugal follow not far behind.

Look at the record books: The United States ranks fifth in vineyard acreage, and we’re an impressive third in total consumption (after France and Italy), consuming close to 600 million gallons of fermented grape juice in a good year. But divide all that vino among nearly 300 million Americans, and it’s spread out mighty thin.

In Australia (ranked 18th in per capita consumption), the average Aussie drinks two-and-a-half times more wine than his American cousin, while the average Briton consumes nearly twice as much wine in a year as an American, putting the UK in 22nd place. Canada is barely ahead of us, in 32nd place. Of the 66 nations included in the Wine Institute’s list of wine-consuming nations, Egypt is last, with just 0.01 gallons drunk per capita per year.

Mounting medical evidence suggests a moderate intake of wine — a glass or two daily — is good for heart health and blood chemistry. Most of us may be missing out on this pleasurable prescription. Are you doing your part?