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    Wine as Popular as Beer

    Gallup poll indicates it is the first time U.S. drinkers didn't pick beer as their favorite alcohol beverage, even though statistically it is a close call.

    For the first time, wine surpassed beer as the most popular beverage among U.S. drinkers as more young people switched to more exotic mixed drinks and older folks consume more wine and liquor, according to a recent Gallup poll.

    About 39 percent of U.S. drinkers said they consume wine the most often, compared to 36 percent for beer and 21 percent for liquor, according to Gallup. It is the first time since 1992 when Gallup started polling on the topic that Americans didn't pick beer as their favorite, Gallup said in a statement.

    The poll, which was conducted among 658 alcohol drinkers 18 years and older July 7-10, has a plus or minus margin of error of 4 percentage points., according to Gallup.

    While the beer industry still dominates the alcohol beverage category, it’s no secret that beer industry has been losing market share in the U.S. to wine and spirits. Liquor's share of total U.S. alcohol spending rose to 32 percent in 2004 from 30.8 percent in 1999, while during the same period wine share of market increased to 14.9 percent from 14.3 percent, according to Adams Beverage Group. Meanwhile, beer's market share fell to 53 percent from 55 percent.

    "It's a confluence of factors," Michael Bellas, chairman and chief executive of Beverage Marketing Corp., based in New York, told Bloomberg. "One is the advertising, two is the demographics as people age, and they're doing a better marketing job on wine. Also people are looking for more sophisticated products."

    The HBO television series "Sex and the City," whose characters often consumed martinis and cosmopolitans, helped boost the popularity of cocktails among young people, while the film "Sideways," set in Santa Barbara County's wine country, has contributed to wine sales growth, Bellas said.

    "Young folks that I talked to seem to confirm that anecdotally," Lydia Saad, a senior editor with Gallup, said in a telephone interview. "People seem to be drinking fancy cocktails and margaritas and Bacardi Breezers. We seem to be clearly picking up on a trend going on among Generation Xers."

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