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The just-published 2003 Adams Wine Handbook reports that US wine consumption reached its highest level in 16 years in 2002, despite the sluggish economy.

Consumption climbed to 246.3 million nine-liter cases in 2002, up five percent -- the largest percentage increase since 1996 -- with table wines showing the largest gains.

Both domestic and imported table wines recorded healthy gains last year, but imports outperformed domestic wines, soaring 16.1 percent to 49.9 million cases, while US wines were up 3.5 percent to 171.1 million cases.

Australia is the big winner in the import category, leapfrogging over France to become the second largest exporter of table wines to the US, after Italy.
KC's View:
Well, we've certainly been trying to do our share…

It is interesting that the imports did so much better than domestics, especially considering the popularity of "Two Buck Chuck" and its brethren.

What this all suggests to us goes beyond the wimple increase in wine consumption. It seems to us that an increase in wine drinking points to a growing sophistication among American consumers, which we think can be extended to a greater appreciation of good food. It doesn't mean that Americans don't want a wine bargain; after all, Trader Joe's and Costco do very well selling good wine at low prices. But maybe Americans aren't always looking for the lowest common denominator.

On the other hand, considering all the crap going on in the world, maybe Americans just needed to drink more.