Javier Flores has been fascinated with winemaking since he was a kid in Mexico walking through the winery where his dad worked and admiring the white coats worn by the people in the winery's lab.
Decades later, as a winemaker for the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula, Calif., Flores said he is seeing interest in wines flourish among Hispanic communities, particularly among younger consumers.
"Wine is more part of our meal now," Flores said.
Recent research by the Experian Simmons consumer research firm shows that wine consumption is on the rise among adults across the U.S., but it is increasing most significantly among Hispanics. Between 2005 and 2011, wine consumption among Hispanics 21 and older jumped 34 percent in the U.S. The Hispanic drinking-age population grew, too, but only by 19 percent.
During the same time frame, wine consumption among non-Hispanics increased 14 percent.
Rising interest in wines has meant stronger wine sales in markets that cater to a largely Hispanic customer base. Marco Robles, a spokesman for the Ontario, Calif., -based grocery chain Cardenas Markets, said the company has noticed the trend and has responded this year with a more varied wine selection, and a larger volume of product.
Robles said wine consumption has grown in tandem with interest in microbrew beers and other trendy drinks. Consumers are recognizing more that many wines blend well with Mexican food and other Latin American cuisines, and with so much variety available in the market, they are expanding their palates and trying new things.
Research from Experian Simmons shows Hispanic consumers are more likely to opt for imported wines than non-Hispanic consumers, but that, too, is changing. Hispanic consumption of domestic brands is growing at a much faster rate than imports. Among non-Hispanics, the results were reversed.
Karl Storchmann, an economics professor at New York University and managing editor of the Journal of Wine Economics, said increasing incomes are likely a driving force behind higher consumption rates.
Even with recent increases, Korchmann noted Hispanic consumption of wine remains lower than consumption among non-Hispanics. The Experian Simmons study found 26.5 percent of Hispanics say they drink wine, an increase from 2005 but still well below the 38.8 percent of non-Hispanics who are wine consumers.
Brian Bueno, consumer research analyst for IBISWorld Inc. in Los Angeles, said age also is important. Younger consumers are a huge growth market for the wine industry, and the Hispanic population in the U.S. is relatively young. According to Census data, Hispanics comprise 16.2 percent of the overall population in the U.S., but they make up 19.2 percent of the population of 20- to 34-year-olds, Bueno said.
Flores said the quality of many Mexican wines has increased significantly in recent years, which may also contribute to increasing interest among consumers as people travel between the two countries. And exposure to wine on television, the Internet and in the media in the U.S. has increased awareness in the Hispanic community, he said, especially among second- and third-generation consumers, who have greater access to education and social life.
Consumers are recognizing more that many wines blend well with Mexican food and other Latin American cuisines, and with so much variety available in the market, they are expanding their palates and trying new things. "I've seen it in the families of friends," Flores said.