Market research from the Wine Market Council, in its annual analysis of the American drinks market, provides more irrefutable evidence that the United States is becoming a wine culture. The country's drinking habits continue to move toward wine above beer and spirits, making it as the fastest-growing class of inebriates in the market.

One hundred million adults in the United States now say they are drinking wine on a regular basis, more than any other country, including Germany, France and Italy (whose per-capita consumption remains higher, of course). Americans are purchasing nearly 300 million cases annually, for a per-capita consumption of 3.08 gallons, the first time that figure has topped three gallons.

Fully one quarter of the U.S. population is now considered a “core” wine drinker, or someone who drinks wine on a regular basis, daily, weekly or monthly. (That number, 57% of the total number of wine drinkers, is itself higher than ever before, nearly double the number of core drinkers in 1994, when, it could be said, American interest in wine started to kick into another gear.)

The Council also reports that the “core” is drinking better: More than half of consumers' purchases fall within the $15-$40 category, and nearly a third of all purchases now resides in the $30-$75 category — whether in wine bars, restaurants or off-premise wine shops.

Much of the new interest is coming from Millennials, some of whom aren't yet old enough to drink. Trends indicate, though, that when they reach the golden age, their beverage of choice won't be Budweiser. “The Millennial share of core wine drinkers continues to grow,” said John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council, “not only because 4 million them turned 21 this year, but also because more Millennials are in their late 20s and early to mid 30s, a stage in life where wine consumption often rises, as we have seen with the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers before them.”

For California wineries, of course, whose product represents nearly a fifth of all wine consumed in this country, that is very heartening news.

Patrick Comiskey, our drinks columnist, blogs at and tweets at @patcisco. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

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