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Wine consumption still on the up

By Dave Buchanan
CALISTOGA, Cal - Randy and Lisa Lynch of Bennett Lane Winery in Napa Valley not only make some of the most high-powered cabernet sauvignon in the valley but also are the only winery that owns a NASCAR team. While driver Mike David in the No. 2 Bennett Lane Ford currently is atop the NASCAR leader board, owner Randy Lynch, himself a one-time racing crew chief, is looking to win something else: The palates of the predominately beer-drinking NASCAR fans. "I think there's a huge untapped market in the racing world for fine wines," said Randy, who adds his goal is to change "beer drinkers to wine drinkers one race at a time." According to some of the latest statistics on U.S. wine consumption, the Lynches have a good chance to find a new fan base. The 2007 edition of the Adams Wine Handbook, published by the Adams Beverage Group, says wine consumption in the U.S. jumped 3.4 percent last year, the 13th consecutive year that U.S. drinkers have increased their wine consumption. If sales continue this trend, the U.S. will become the largest wine market in the world by the end of the year, the Handbook says. And it's not just aging Boomers who are turning more to wine. The Adams Groups said a recent Gallup polls showed the majority of Millennials, from 21-30, rank wine as their alcohol beverage of choice. Two of the top reasons why wine consumption still is growing, said the Adams Wine Handbook, are the trend to novice-friendly packaging, including the "critter" labels found on such brands as Yellow Tail, Killer Juice and Dog House brand wines, and the increasing use of screwcaps. Yellow Tail, by the way, continues to be the leading imported wine in the U.S., shipping 8.1 million cases onto American shores last year. The Wine Group's Franzia Winetaps, known best for its 5-liter wine in a box, leads the domestic market at 22.8 million cases last year.

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