The American middle class has become connoisseurs of everything—coffee, '80s Japanese garage-rock bands, environmentalist toilet paper, and now wine, writes Slate's Field Maloney. Fermented grape juice doubled its audience in the past decade, while consumption of lower-brow beer stagnated. And for the first time in history, Americans pollees prefer wine to beer.
"Wine has cleaned itself up, with a freshly shaved face and a fashionable suit of casual clothes, and is headed uptown," writes an industry insider. Maloney attributes the boom to a rise in pastoral chic—ordinary Americans can now be epicures but not snobs—and a change in wine jargon from posh and esoteric to passionate and flavorful. (Read more wine stories.)