In an article posted on The Huffington Post on March 30, Mary Orlin asks the question "... does America really have a wine culture all its own?" And she goes on to answer emphatically "Yes we do." I beg to differ.
Culture, as used by anthropologists, refers to the "full range of learned behavior patterns" and assumes inter-generational learning as the key "culture-transmission" vehicle. This over-arching definition of culture is the most significant argument against the existence of an American wine culture as we have not been drinking wine long enough to have the multi-generational transfer of habits, practices, and rituals associated with a "wine culture." Secondly, a cultural trait tends to cross-cut societal boundaries and that is definitely not the case with wine in the US. While wine drinking is no longer reserved for society's upper crust, there are still large geographic and soci-cultural swaths of the country that remain oblivious to the pleasures of wine drinking.
In an sfgate.com article, Janice Fuhrman points out the issues faced by Spanish winemakers as they try to sell into the US market. According to one of the interviewees, when dining in Spain, someone at the table would ask "white or red" and that would be the last time the wine would be referred to except it were bad. In the US, according to this interviewee, once the wine is ordered, everyone has to comment on it. This amused the interviewee because it was "only wine." Another interviewee remarked about wine being as a much a part of the meal as the food items on the table. According to Miguel Torres, leading Spanish wine producer, and another of the interviewees, "a wine culture 'comes with thousands of years of tradition, with our ancestors, with wine drinking as an everyday part of life.'"
So how did Mary Orlin arrive at the conclusion that America has a wine culture? In the first paragraph of her article, she points out that in 2010, Americans drank more wine than did the French. It is not directly stated but the implication is that the French have a wine culture so if we are drinking more wine than they are then we must have a wine culture also. Next the author turns to a SFMOMA exhibit which, she states, is premised on an American wine culture originating in 1976 with the Judgement of Paris. Now I have not seen this exhibit but its web page seesm to hint at a broader coverage than just US wine culture. But if this museum is pushing the concept of an identifiable start date to a non-existent American wine culture then I say shame on them.