Here's a surprise: Americans' wine drinking is in a bit of a slump. It increased last year for the 22nd year in a row — but only by 0.2 percent.
Still, we're not drinking less. We're branching into other beverages. Most of the rise was in trendy sparkling wines such as prosecco. Consumption of other wines declined for the fourth year in a row, as more fans turned to hard cider and spirits, says a report in the industry website Shanken's Impact Databank.
Wineries needn't worry. Soon a new wave of wine fans will reach drinking age, supplementing the millennial generation. The new sippers, called "Generation Z," were born after 1995 and already show interest in wine when they're old enough, according to a survey by Wine Intelligence published in Decanter Magazine.
Today there are 93 million regular wine drinkers in the United States, making up 40 percent of adults; by 2025 there will be 104 million.
Cider: Cider's rise is promoted by new uses in cocktails, with producers arguing that it's less expensive and lower in alcohol than bubbly. Sonoma Cider of California is pushing the Mint Apple Swizzle, made of Sonoma's "The Hatchet" cider, apple brandy, lime juice, bitters, mint leaves and apple slices.
Flavor: Drink customers also are upping their recent quest for more flavors — unexpected ones — in their beverages.
Flavored whiskey is soaring. It grew 50 percent in 2014 and another 40 percent in 2015, led by such brands as Fireball and Royal Regal Apple, reports Shanken News Daily. A popular Royal-based cocktail in cutting-edge bars is the Washington Apple, with DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker Schnapps and cranberry juice.
At home, tipplers are doing it themselves by infusing inexpensive gins with cucumber, bourbon with cherries and so on, bloggers say.
The quest for more flavor extends to wine. The Champagne house Veuve Clicquot has launched a new bubbly dubbed "Rich." It's a bold move, breaking many of the old rules about prime Champagne. Rich is sweeter, with more sugar, and it's meant to be drunk from a wide-mouthed glass, with ice cubes and juices like lime, pineapple and strawberry and veggies like cucumber and bell peppers. It sells for about $64.
Wine as exercise: Here's news we can abuse. University of Alberta researchers say studies with rats suggest that drinking red wine can be as good for the heart as an hour exercising in the gym. The compound called resveratrol is the secret. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology in May.
Sustainable wine: Sustainable wine is hot. In California, Domaine Carneros's winery recycles pressed-out grape skins by spreading them on pastures for cows, which like them so much they follow the truck around, according to the California Wine Institute's newsletter "Down to Earth."
Drones: It had to happen. Drones are coming to U.S. vineyards. Flown at altitudes of about 150 feet above the vines, they can take videos that show drought and disease before they might be picked up otherwise. Diseased vines visibly droop, and drought-stricken vines lose their leaves altogether. Cornell University researchers are leading the way in New York's northern Finger Lakes district, says industry magazine Wines & Vines.