Over the last two decades, Americans have increasingly put down their churchkeys in favor of corkscrews, with a new Gallup poll showing that about as many Americans prefer sipping wine as they do drinking beer.
Thirty-six percent of Americans who drink alcohol say beer is most often their drink of choice, according to the poll, while 35 percent say the same of wine. That has held steady for a few years, but it is a major change from two decades ago; in 1992, 47 percent of drinkers said they most often drank beer, compared to only 27 percent of wine-drinkers.
The number of Americans who prefer beer has declined in recent years, according to Gallup.
Liquor, meanwhile, has shown little change. After being the drink of choice for 18 to 21 percent of drinkers through the '90s, it gained a little ground and has stayed popular with about 20 percent of drinkers since 2000.
Americans' tastes have shifted toward wine for a number of reasons. As industry publication Wine Business reported in January, drinkers report consuming more wine on special occasions and casually – having a glass after work, for example. The growth in wine's popularity has come from both whites and nonwhites, according to Gallup's data, and from both men and women, though only 20 percent of men say they prefer wine, compared to 52 percent of women.
In addition, both millennials and Americans over 50 have increasingly reported that wine is their preferred drink. However, 30- to 49-year-olds have bucked this trend. Only 29 percent of that group says they prefer wine, compared to 31 percent 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, even within the category of beer, Americans' tastes are shifting. As MarketWatch reported in February, drinkers are cutting back on mass-market beers like Budweiser and moving toward craft beers.
While Americans' preferences for beer and wine may be going in opposite directions, drinkers of both beverages share one common trend: an increasing number of choices. The number of U.S. wineries has skyrocketed, from around 2,000 in the early 1990s to nearly 8,000 as of 2010, according to figures from WineAmerica, a wine lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. Likewise, the number of U.S. breweries has grown from 89 in the late 1970s to 2,403 as of 2012, according to the Brewers' Association, an industry membership organization.
Though beer has lost ground to wine over time, Gallup predicts that the trend won't continue.
"[B]eer still ranks as the preferred beverage among young adults and is tied with wine among minorities, so unless wine or liquor eclipses beer as the favorite alcoholic drink among these groups, it doesn't appear that beer's position will grow much weaker in the coming years," Gallup says.