The Alcohol Content of Wine Consumed in the US and Per Capita Consumption: New Estimates Reveal Different Trends


  • Supported by Grants P-50-A05595 and RO1-AA014362 to the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Reprint requests: William C. Kerr, PhD, Alcohol Research Group, 2000 Hearst Avenue, Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94709; Fax: 510-642-7175; E-mail:


Background: To estimate the mean percentage alcohol content by volume (%ABV) for wine sold in the US and in each state for the years 1962 to 2002, and to apply these to per capita wine sales for the years 1970 to 2002.

Method: Estimates of wine-type mean %ABV are calculated using brand-level sales and %ABV from one state and are extrapolated to other states and to the US using wine-type sales.

Results: The mean %ABV is found to vary substantially over time and across states, with US means ranging from 16.2% in 1962 to a low of 10.5% in 1991. By 2002, the US mean %ABV had risen to nearly 11.5%. Application of %ABV estimates to the per capita consumption of wine indicated significant differences from previous estimates with lower alcohol intake from wine found for all years after 1980 and 6 year-to-year changes in opposite directions.

Conclusions: Empirically based estimates of the alcohol content of wine sold in the US show changes over time and differences between states that have significance for epidemiologic monitoring and modeling of the determinants and consequences of alcohol use and for improving comparisons with per capita beer and spirits consumption series.