THE DISTRICT CONSUMES more wine per capita than any state, according to a study in the Impact American Wine Market Review and Forecast. That may or may not represent good news at year's end for you, depending upon your bias. Washingtonians drink almost 10 gallons of wine a year among drinkers 21 and over, assisted by Virginians and Marylanders taking advantage of the District's competitive retail pricing. The closest contender was Nevada, with 7.31 gallons per capita. California ranked third with 6.63, and Mississippi was last with 0.97 gallons.
Wine consumption nationwide is more or less static. States with the heaviest consumption actually lost ground, while some in the Midwest gained considerably. (Kansas is up 18.4 percent!) That does not present a rosy prospect for next year, since in 1985 the dollar was still dominant and there were great bargains to be had among imported wines. Most of those will disappear in 1986. There will still be good buys among the less prestigious vineyards, but you will have to be more selective. You don't have to drink less wine, but you may have to drink more lesser wine. Got that?
Antialcohol campaigns around the country did not help the wine drinker feel loved or even understood by his fellow
Americans in 1985. Seagram's,
the world's largest liquor producer, decided to oppose the
neo-Prohibitionists -- by striking
out against their friends. Its so-
called "equivalency" advertising
campaign riled vintners and
brewers. The ads showed a glass
of wine, a beer and a shot of
whiskey, making the point that they all contain roughly the same amounts of alcohol, and ignoring the fact that alcohol is absorbed by the body more slowly when drunk with food. The ads left everybody, consumers included, with hangovers.
The illegal introduction of glycol into Austrian wine did for that country's wine industry in 1985 what Ralph Nader did for the Pinto years ago. Glycol, a toxic solvent used in antifreeze, can artificially sweeten a wine and hide defects, and enough of it can kill you. (Some of Villa Banfi's Riunite was also recalled after it was found to be contaminated with a smaller percentage of glycol.) In 1986 there should be some good Austrian wine on the market, at very good prices.
The 1985 harvests are the year's bright spot. Those in Europe were generally good, and potentially great in Burgundy and northern Italy. California's harvest was good and plentiful. Some California wines have actually gone down in price. On the far edge of America lies the potential for good wine at good prices and a growing market share, if only the producers can learn to settle for secondhand Porsches.
This year also saw the reemergence of the cocktail party, where people drink concoctions with ice cubes from squat little glasses. A participant recently told me he had gone back to whiskey not because of equivalency ads, poor harvests or the declining dollar, but because bad wine is often served where it should not be. There are still people in the wine-consuming capital of the nation at the end of 1985 who will spend $10,000 for an oil painting and serve a $2.49 bottle of "chablis." There are fewer of them, however, and they do insist that the wine contain no antifreeze.