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What's So Special About Iowa Wine?
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What's So Special About Iowa Wine?

Who is the Average Native Iowa Wine Drinker?

Hmmm, I dunno for sure, but I can take a guess.  I have been working closely with the Iowa grape and wine industry since February of 2000. At the time, Iowa had about 13 small fruit wineries and a couple of wineries making wine out of grapes they were actually growing in their own vineyards. Summerset Winery in Indianola and Tabor Home Winery at Baldwin were the first successful post–Prohibition wineries producing wine from their own vineyards that I am aware of. The concept caught on quickly, starting a grassroots industry now that boasts 97 wineries and approximately 300 vineyards covering 1,250 acres.  A lot has happened in 15 years.

The average U.S. wine consumer: 

Researchers at the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute recently designed a survey to identify the average U.S. wine consumer. 1,028 wine consumers from all 50 states completed the survey. Some of the key findings from this survey showed that the population of U.S. wine consumers are:

  • 49% male and 51% female
  • 50% have a college degree
  • 60% make over $50k per year
  • 36% were Millennials (21-36), 22% Gen Xers (37-48), 34% were Baby Boomers (49-67) and 8% were traditionalists (68+)
  • 20% drank wine daily, 48% several times per week, 18% once a week, 14% were occasional drinkers
  • $10 to $15 per bottle was the most common price paid for wine
  • 74% said that the brand of wine was the most important factor in choosing their wine

More details about this survey can be found in Snapshot of the American Wine Consumer in 2014,” 12-2-14 by Liz Thach, Janeen Olsen & Tom Atkin.

The average Iowa-produced wine consumer:

My point in bringing up this survey is that I don’t think the average Iowa wine consumer is much different than the average U.S. wine consumer in many ways.  But, the average Iowan who drinks Iowa-produced wine is different.  The 2014 / 2015 fiscal year report from the Iowa Alcohol & Beverage Division showed that Iowa wineries sold 267,868 gallons of wine, representing only 5.8% of the retail wine market share in Iowa. Iowa wineries sold 44% of this wine directly to the consumer and 56% through other storefronts.  The remaining 94.2% (4,199,696 gallons) of wine came into Iowa from other states and countries.  

So who are these die-hard native Iowa wine drinkers? Visit a few Iowa wineries or Iowa wine events and the answers should become rather obvious. These native Iowa wine aficionados like:                                                                                                                                

  • The adventure of visiting Iowa wineries
  • To meet people at winery events and have fun
  • Listen to good music and taste good food
  • The concept of buying a locally produced product
  • To drink national and international award winning wines
  • To get married at Iowa wineries

Why Sweet Wine?

I have heard many a wine snob complain that Iowa wineries all produce sweet wines and there are no dry wines for them to drink. NOT true, most Iowa wineries will have a selection of dry to sweet wines for you to choose from. Why so much sweet?  I have read many wine market surveys over the years and one thing that stands out clearly is that approximately 75% of U.S. wine consumers lean toward sweet wines. Sweet wines pay the bills and Iowa wineries know this.

So, be proud if you are a native Iowa wine connoisseur. You represent a very select group of people.  For those of you wannabes, I would suggest you start doing your homework and visit some Iowa wineries. Whether it be a grape wine, fruit wine, cooking wine, vegetable wine, honey wine, sparkling wine or port wine, you should be able to find some that you like.  

Oh yes, for those beer drinkers who refuse to drink wine.  Most Iowa wineries also serve beer!

 --- Mike White, ISU Extension grape guy, mlwhite@iastate.edu or cell: 515-681-7286

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