Embracing Wine in the Lives of Everyday People
By: Heidi Moore, Host – Wine Crush Podcast
The number of factors bringing stress into our lives has increased exponentially over the past few years. First, there was a global pandemic that brought a wicked mixture of fear, isolation, and uncertainty to our lives. The pandemic was followed quickly by economic instability, in which inflation drove up prices of everything from eggs to oil to airfare. Seeking ways to deal with the economic fallout from inflation, many businesses turned to layoffs, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees suddenly without a paycheck.
As Americans seek to deal with these and other stressors they face in today’s world, they often turn to activities like hitting the gym, getting out in nature, or talking with a therapist. One of the simplest formulas for keeping stress at bay, however, is taking the time to enjoy a glass of wine.
Sipping the Stress Away
Wine’s ability to calm us down is founded in science. Specifically, wine contains a compound called resveratrol that has been shown to bring our emotions back into balance.
Resveratrol is a chemical compound found in grape skins and is often associated with red wines because red grapes typically have thicker skins. However, all grapes are known to produce resveratrol.
Resveratrol’s stress-reducing properties are related to the effect it has on the body’s stress hormones. In times of stress, the hormone cortisol is released to help the body respond, but when stress is not addressed, an overabundance of cortisol can be released, leading to anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that resveratrol keeps stress hormones from getting out of control, helping our bodies avoid the type of feelings that we typically describe as “stressed out.”
Taking a Break from Stress
While the presence of resveratrol certainly contributes to the stress relief wine can bring, it is not the only factor at play. Sitting with a glass of wine at the end of the day can help us to embrace a number of other stress-relief strategies.
For example, stopping our work at “wine-o-clock” is an excellent way to assert boundaries. Stress often flows out of being overloaded, which drives long workdays and restless nights. Sitting with friends and loved ones for a glass of wine is one way to say that our lives are about more than just work.
Having a glass of wine with friends also creates a space for us to talk about our stress. In many cases, simply talking about the stressful things in our lives can reduce their emotional impact. Sharing our feelings can also lead to finding the support we need to make it through stressful situations.
Laughter is another common side effect of a glass of wine that can help us with our stress. Laughing releases endorphins that improve our mood and our resiliency. It can also help us reframe our perspectives, taking the power away from temporary situations that trigger stress.
Measuring the Popularity of Wine
Despite its obvious benefits as a stress-relief tonic, everyday people in the US typically don’t turn to a glass of wine when they want to unwind. Recent stats on alcohol sales show that beer is the drink of choice for most Americans, with beer sales having accounted for 54 percent of all alcohol sales in the US in 2022. Liquor, such as tequila and vodka, were next in line, accounting for 24 percent of retail spending.
Wine is at the bottom of the list in terms of alcohol sales at just under 23 percent, which represents a decline from sales in 2019. Reports from the wine industry anticipate that sales of wine will continue to go down because millennials don’t appreciate it as much as the baby boomers who came before them.
The apparent lack of interest in wine in the US doesn’t track with alcohol consumption in the rest of the world. In fact, in terms of per capita wine consumption, the US does not even make the top 10. Portugal is at the top of the list with 67.5 liters per capita, followed by France with 47.4 liters per capita. In comparison, the number for the US is 12.6 liters per capita.
Understanding the Way we See Wine
To understand why wine is not embraced by more people in the US, one must understand its reputation in US culture. Compared to other alcoholic drinks, wine is more often portrayed and perceived as a drink of the high class and elite. As often portrayed in Hollywood films, wine is typically referenced as a beverage that wealthy people drink on their yachts or order in exclusive restaurants.
Wine is not seen as a drink for everyday people. When the working class unwinds and cracks open a cold one, they are typically reaching for a beer. Beer is commonly considered the go-to drink for sporting events and family picnics. It is what you’ll find at campus parties, where Americans typically develop their drinking habits.
If wine is enjoyed by everyday people, it is typically only for a special occasion. A couple will share a bottle of wine on their anniversary, but have a draft on a typical date night. Beer is the “everyman” drink seen as more accessible, more masculine, and — by many — more patriotic.
This attitude toward wine is not universal, which is clearly shown by the stats on per capita wine consumption. In Italy, for example, drinking wine is considered an everyday custom, not a luxury for special occasions. Similarly, in Argentina, one of the world’s top wine producers, wine is present at virtually every meal, but especially when families gather.
In France, wine is something that is enjoyed every day, often at lunch and dinner, by a large part of the population. In fact, it is said that parents in the Champagne region of France give their children a taste of their famous wine even before they give them breast milk.
Seeing Wine in a New Way
To promote the image of wine as an everyday drink for everyday people, the wine industry has launched many new initiatives in recent years. Educating consumers is at the forefront of these initiatives. The belief is that a deeper understanding of wine will lead to more appreciation and greater comfort.
Enhancing the information available on a wine label’s website is one way to educate consumers. Through online blogs, companies can go beyond product information to share ideas on when, how, and why to drink wine.
Providing educational information via social media is another promising strategy to increase the public’s appreciation for wine. With social posts, wine companies can target certain demographics or join ongoing conversations. Social media also allows companies to gain a deeper understanding of how their products are perceived by the public, and to address misconceptions.
Bringing potential wine drinkers into wineries and wine shops is another way to further their education. This can include winery tours, which build an appreciation for the care involved in the wine-making process, and classes or seminars on wine-making. Wineries can also offer tasting room experiences specifically designed for those new to wine.
Podcasts provide another excellent opportunity to increase the general public’s wine IQ. There are a host of popular podcasts available today on wine that introduce listeners to wine culture, helping them navigate the process of buying, serving, and enjoying wine. Many of the podcasts feature episodes for those who are new to wine. Some podcasts focus exclusively on wine newbies.
Bringing Inclusivity to the Wine Industry
Boosting inclusivity in the wine industry is another initiative launched in recent years to make wine more accessible to the masses. Several years ago, media reports drew attention to the fact that minority communities were largely underrepresented in the wine industry. The reports argued that wine’s image as an exclusive drink was something that the wine industry perpetuated by failing to promote diversity and inclusivity in its ranks.
In response, the wine industry has sought to make wine culture more accessible by increasing its inclusivity. In 2020, for example, Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) committed $1 million to efforts to increase diversity in the wine industry. NVV is a trade association that represents more than 500 wineries in the US.
Addressing the Affordability Issue
Affordability is also a factor that needs to be considered in efforts to inspire everyday people to add wine to their routines. Because wine is viewed as a more exclusive drink, it is also considered a more expensive drink. Helping consumers understand that inexpensive wine is available and enjoyable is an important part of the education process.
Sharing tips for buying wine on a budget is one way to make it more accessible. By buying directly from the winery, for example, consumers can avoid paying mark-up costs. Consumers may also not be aware that they can get good wine at good prices by shopping for it at grocery stores, discount outlets, and warehouse clubs.
A variety of factors have led to the perception that wine is not a drink for everyday people. The truth, however, is that everyone can enjoy wine and, more importantly, everyone can benefit from its stress-reducing properties. Now is a perfect time to change the narrative on wine, rewriting the story so that a more diverse group of people can call themselves wine lovers.
Heidi Moore is an insurance broker by day with a special focus on wine, craft beer, cider, and farming. Ten years ago, she was not a wine drinker, but when the opportunity to learn about wine presented itself, she jumped at the chance to learn something new. She ended up falling in love with the personalities, the process, and the farming surrounding the wine industry. After that, she created the Wine Crush Podcast and felt it was a great opportunity to showcase the personalities in the wine industry, dispel the myths surrounding wine, and encourage those unsure about it to step up and try it!