Wine-loving US boosts sales during holidays, and beyond

Thanks in part to the holiday demand for wine, 2014 could turn into another record year of wine sales in the U.S.

In 2013, Americans spent more than $36 billion on wine, according to data from The Wine Institute. The U.S. has been leading the world in wine consumption since 2010, when the annual volume of wine consumed domestically surpassed that of the notoriously oenophile France.

"The U.S. is becoming more of a wine-drinking country," said Ray Isle, Food & Wine's executive wine editor in an interview.

"A huge amount of wine in the U.S. is sold in the fourth quarter, and it's because of holiday entertaining," Isle continued. He suggested several options for at-home hosts to have on hand to please a crowd and a budget.

1. NV Mionetto Prestige Organic Prosecco ($16)

Consider an all-purpose sparkling wine for parties and larger group celebrations, Isle suggested, highlighting a prosecco from Mionetto.

"It's unusual to find a widely available, affordable prosecco that also happens to be made from organically farmed grapes," he said about the crisp-tasting wine, which features subtle notes of apple and peach.

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The Italian sparkling wine category is experiencing a popularity boom, thanks in large part to its reasonable price point—it typically retails for less than $20 a bottle.

Globally, prosecco sales in 2013 outpaced champagne with 307 million bottles sold to just 304 million, according to figures released earlier this year by the Italian Sparkling Wine Observatory.

"If I had invested in prosecco, I think my life would be really nice—you know, a private island or something," Isle joked.

Wolffer Estate Gallery wine vineyard
Source: Wolffer Estate Gallery

2. 2013 Joel Gott Oregon Pinot Gris & 2012 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon

Joel Gott ($15) and Columbia Crest ($13) are two affordable table wines that Isle thinks are worth stocking up on for the holiday stretch. When feeding guests, he recommends having both a white and red wine that "will go with anything" on the menu.

"Pinot gris is a great balancing point between the richness of chardonnay and the tartness of sauvignon blanc—which makes it a great all-purpose white for Thanksgiving, holiday parties, and any other occasion," Isle said.

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For a counterpart all-purpose red, he suggests seeking out high-value Washington State cabernets, to pair with traditional holiday foods, that don't break the bank when purchased in bulk.

"If you buy it by the case," Isle said, "most wine stores will usually give you a 10 percent discount."

3. 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($135)

Every now and again, Isle recommends people splurge on bubbly, especially if it's a gift.

Everyone knows Dom Perignon, but Dom Ruinart, from one of the oldest Champagne houses in France, may offer equal taste for the cost of the rich stuff.

Dom Ruinart is named after the 17th century Benedictine monk Thierry Ruinart. He was a scholar at the same French abbey where Pierre Perignon oversaw wine production.

The two wine-making friends are "buried next to each other," Isle pointed out. "Champagne is always a great gift. But it's also nice to make gifts a little more personal by choosing something a little less well known."