US Wine Consumption and Imports Driven by Younger, Engaged Consumers

Published Sep 15, 2023
In 2022, the US was the world's largest wine consumer with 34 million hectoliters (mhl) or 15% of global consumption. Despite being the fourth largest wine producer with 22.4 mhl, the US’s consumption was 1.52 times larger than its production, creating an 11.62 mhl deficit, leaving little room for exports. Consequently, the US only exported 2.8 mhl or 12.5% of its production, with the remaining 87.5% remaining on its own shores for domestic consumption. The US still imported 14.4 mhl in 2022 to fulfill its consumption deficit, making it the top wine-importing country. US wine imports, valued at USD 7.68 billion, primarily consist of high-value, high-quality wines, with 67% bottled wine and 27% sparkling. Key sources include France (35.87% by value) and Italy (31.78% by value). Premiumization of the wine category is evident in the US, influenced by increased engagement and spend, especially among younger consumers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic's end, 14 million more regular wine drinkers have emerged, mostly under 40. The market splits between less-engaged, price-sensitive older consumers and engaged, regular younger drinkers, with the latter accounting for nearly 60% of total wine expenditure.

The United States (US) is the largest wine-consuming country globally by a large margin, consuming 34 million hectoliters (mhl) in 2022, accounting for 15% of global wine consumption. The US is also one of the largest wine-producing countries in the world, ranking fourth in 2022 with 22.4 mhl. Despite this large production volume, the US has a large discrepancy between production and consumption. US wine consumption was 1.52 times larger than its production in 2022, resulting in a consumption deficit of 11.62 mhl. This is the second largest discrepancy between production and consumption among the top 10 wine-producing countries, with only Germany having a larger production-consumption ratio of 2.18 in 2022, as illustrated in Figure 1. 

Figure 1. 2022 Wine Production and Consumption Volume by Country

Source: OIV

In fact, the other top 10 countries have a production-consumption ratio of less than 1, generally ranging between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that these countries produce more wine than they consume, leaving room for exports. The US, on the other hand, cannot satisfy its own consumption needs even if it exported none of its wine. This situation leaves little room for exports. The US exported only 2.8 mhl of its production in 2022, or 12.5%. This means 87.5% of US wine production remained on domestic shores in 2022, the highest among the top 10 biggest wine-producing countries globally. The country with the second lowest export share of production is Argentina, with 23.48%, with the other top 10 countries averaging between 50% and 60%, as illustrated in Figure 2. Thus, a large percentage of US wine production remains within its domestic market for consumption by US consumers, whereas most other top wine-producing countries export around 50% or more of their output.

Figure 2. 2022 Wine Production and Export Volume by Country 

Source: OIV

Despite the large volume of US wine production that remains within the country, around 40% of US wine consumption still needs to be satisfied with imported wine, which amounted to 14.4 mhl in 2022. Resultantly, the US was the largest wine-importing country in the world in 2022, both in terms of volume and value. US wine imports increased by 3.29% in volume from 13.9 mhl in 2021 to 14.4 mhl in 2022, while the value of wine imports grew 4.24% from USD 7.37 billion to 7.68 billion during the same period. The US was only slightly ahead of Germany (13.4 mhl) and the United Kingdom (13.0 mhl) in terms of wine import volume in 2022, but imported more than double the value of Germany (USD 2.90 billion) and almost USD 2 billion more than the UK. Thus, US wine imports focus on high-value, high-quality wines and do so in large quantities, making the US a lucrative market for wine exporters, especially given the drop in US wine production in 2022.

In terms of volume, US wine imports in 2022 comprised 51% bottled wine, 14% sparkling wine, 1% Bag-in-Box (BIB), and 34% bulk wine, as illustrated in Table 1. Bottled wine imports decreased slightly by 1% while BiB decreased by 19%, although making up a small portion of imports. Sparkling wine imports increased 5% year-on-year (YoY), while bulk wine imports exhibited the largest increase at 10%. In terms of value, US wine imports in 2022 consisted of 67% bottled wine, 27% sparkling wine, less than 1% BiB, and 6% bulk wine. The value of bottled wine increased by 16% YoY, sparkling wine increased by 20%, while bulk wine increased by 19%. The only category that exhibited a decrease is BiB, with 3%.

This breakdown shows that US wine import value is concentrated in the bottled and sparkling wine categories, which suggests that importers focus on expensive, high-quality wines when selecting wines to import. Thus, wine exports interested in the US market should focus on the premium (USD 15 to 20), super premium (USD 20 to 30), and higher offerings.

Table 1. US Wine Export Volume and Value Breakdown 2022 

Source: OIV

In 2022, US wine imports by volume were primarily sourced from Italy (26.75%), Canada (14.70%), France (13.88%), Chile (9.81%), Australia (9.81%), New Zealand (7.09%), Spain (5.16%) and Argentina (5.16%). However, in terms of value, France and Italy had the largest import share with 35.87% and 31.78%, respectively. Both Italy and France are renowned for their expensive region-specific wines, such as Champagne from France and Prosecco from Italy. Thus, US wine imports are focused on high-value bottled still and sparkling wines primarily sourced from Italy and France.

The focus on expensive wines also highlights the premiumization of the wine category in the US market. Income and engagement are key driving factors of this trend, especially among younger consumers. The USD 10 per bottle marks a clear divide, with consumption volumes below this price point declining while consumption volumes above it exhibiting a growth trend. According to the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR), since the COVID-19 pandemic ended, wine participation rates in the US have rebounded, with the number of regular wine drinkers growing by 14 million between 2021 and 2022. This increase is primarily driven by consumers under the age of 40. The US wine industry is experiencing growing participation not just from the most engaged consumers (aged 25 to 54) but also from Generation Z to an extent.

Disposable income is also a driving factor. Regular wine drinkers are significantly more likely to have a combined income of USD 80,000 and higher than in 2018. Attitude also plays a significant role. The number of consumers who are highly involved in the wine category - defined by curiosity, commitment, and willingness to spend more - has increased from 24% in 2019 to 32% in 2022. In contrast, those with low involvement have dropped from 23% to 17% over the same period. Thus, the US wine market is increasingly divided into two categories: the less-engaged, more price-sensitive (and often older) consumers reducing their activity or leaving the market completely, and the more engaged, regular (typically younger adult) consumers increasing their participation and expenditure. While the most engaged Generation X and Millennial consumers make up just under 30% of total regular US wine drinkers, they account for nearly 60% of total expenditure on wine.

In conclusion, US wine consumption has rebounded post-COVID-19, increasing 2.7% in the past year. This growth is primarily driven by younger, highly engaged wine consumers willing to spend money on high-value, high-quality wines. Wine consumption among these consumers is expected to continue in the coming years, albeit at a slower pace. Meanwhile, the surface area under vines in the US, and subsequently wine production has remained relatively flat in the past few years with no signs of increased production in the coming years. Thus, the increased levels of consumption will be satisfied by wine imports. Since the US cannot meet its own consumption needs, Tridge expects the US will be a lucrative market for premium and super-premium wines in the coming years. 

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