The scene is a familiar one. A freshly arrived American student makes his/her memorable first trip to a French supermarket for essentials and spots the accessible wall of beers and wines. Slack-jawed by how affordable it will be to drink wine on a budget that isn’t from a box, they run to tell their new friends how great their Parisian experience will be with such inexpensive alcohol to go with their weekly waterfront picnics.
Whether it’s actually quality wine by French standards is irrelevant – acquiring the goods doesn’t require a trip to a liquor store and that’s part of its appeal. The allure has finally made its way Stateside. It was reported last week that the U.S. has dethroned France as the largest wine-consuming nation in the world (not per-capita), reflecting not only a generational shift but an evolution in tastes.
Wine has certainly become more accessible and also less elitist over the last several years; both factors have led to a growing interest among Millenials (generation y). Whereas winning beer pong competitions might have previously been the epitome of cool, a glass of wine (note: glass not plastic cup) in hand oozes with sociable sophistication; an image that trumps college partier as the Millenials get older. Trading can for glass is a rite of passage into adulthood, in many ways.
Of course, this is exactly what the wine producers are hoping to capitalize on as they aggressively market to this group. Wary of any labels or seductive marketing tactics, the 20–30 set are heavily influenced by their friends, family and colleagues in addition to their budget. With such a varied selection of wines, in origin and price, at their disposal (and handy guides like the one produced by Trader Joe’s!), consumption no longer has to be reserved for special occasions.
And then there’s the health factor. Quick to jump on the latest health craze, I’m willing to bet Americans started reaching more for red wine after countless studies attested to its many health benefits, from longevity to reduced risk of heart attacks. Who would turn down a moderate 2 glasses per night with those results?
That Americans are growing out of their beer-toting reputation is a good thing. For Francophiles, perhaps even better. They can breathe a sigh of relief that the hedonistic pleasure of a good wine and cheese pairing is no longer something of fantasy but rather holds a strong place in the construction of social connections. All that’s missing now is a spot right along the banks of the Seine and a warm baguette to create the perfect outing with friends.
Lindsey Tramuta is a home & culture columnist for BitchBuzz and the creator of Lost In Cheeseland where she writes about food, love, life and obstacles in Paris. Follow her on twitter @LostNCheeseland.
Photo © Lindsey Tramuta for BitchBuzz