America dominates

It vexes Europeans and flummoxes fulminators on cable news who forecast “China is overtaking us,” but the United States is the world’s most important wine market and will remain so for some time.

The U.S. eclipsed France and Italy in total wine consumption in 2011 and has not looked back. We have a larger population and continue turning from beer to wine. Europe will never catch up.

Americans enjoyed 324 million cases of wine in 2012, up seven percent in five years. There are more than 100 million American wine drinkers. A majority are Boomers and Gen Xers, but Millennials (age 21-34) are close behind, and their influence ripples in retail.

Millennials get credit for the rise of rosé. They also get credit for surge of sparkling (up 14 percent since 2007). The ascendancy of both is fueled by quality wine, not cheap plonk, which thrills wine makers.

Women are more than half of America’s core wine drinkers—those who drink wine at least once a week. They are not giggling, flighty chicks swilling white zin and 7-Up. The ladies may have started with white zin, but they’ve moved on to rosé and more.

American winemakers benefit. Importers more so. From 2007 to 2011, Chilean imports were up 14 percent, Spanish up 16 percent, Portuguese up 36 percent, New Zealand up 44 percent, Argentina up 107 percent (enjoyed a malbec recently?).

China is world’s fifth largest wine market. Given its population, China will overtake United States in a decade or so. So what? The U.S. will be a major supplier to that market. Chairman Mao is turning over in his sarcophagus.

Tasting notes:

• Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry Sparkling Wine NV. EJ Gallo value play with lively bubbles, slightly sweet, nice acidity; tart apple; clean; big party pour that won’t make you poor. $10

• Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV. Bushel of apples, grapefruit wedge, apricot, flutter of flowers; clean, creamy, nice acidity, food friendly. $13

• Gauchezco Malbec Rosé 2011. Deliciously fresh strawberry, watermelon; silky, slightly sweet, good acidity; another reason to ride the rosé wave. $14

• Gauchezco Oro Malbec 2008. Rich, dense, dark, ripe blackberry, blueberry; nicely integrated oak, chewy tannin; long finish; malbec big boy. $40

Last round: Nothing messes up your wild wine Friday like realizing today is Wednesday.