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Words & Deeds: 'It doesn't surprise me.' Idaho drinks most wine per capita of all 50 states. Really?

The Idaho Statesman — Michael Deeds The Idaho Statesman

Jan. 10--Feel free to roll your eyes at a new VinePair article claiming Idaho consumes more wine per capita than any other state.

But like the saying goes, denial ain't just a river in Egypt. It's a river in Boise. Flowing with cabernet.

Pop a cork, Idaho, and share a toast: We're No. 1!

"Wow," chuckled Barry Devine, wine buyer at the Boise Co-op. "It kind of doesn't really surprise me in the Valley."

"It's plausible," added Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. "Idaho does consume a lot of wine."

Skeptical? Understandable. After all, VinePair is the same the drinking-culture website that deemed Boise one of "The World's Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018." (Flattering, but come on. The entire world?)

That said, VinePair created its state-by-state wine consumption maps by nabbing data from a government source -- the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

According to a similar VinePair article in 2015 -- where Idaho also grape-stomped all challengers -- the per-capita numbers include drinkers 14 years and older. The legal drinking age is 21, of course.

Because of Idaho's modest population size, the Gem State is far from topping overall consumption. That honor goes to California, which also produces the vast majority of American wine.

But in 2016, the most recent year studied by the NIH, the average Idahoan supposedly sipped twice as much wine as the average Californian -- consuming 1.19 gallons of ethanol to the Golden State's .59 gallons. Adding to the believability is Utah's ranking: .19 gallons, or fourth lowest in the nation.

With Idaho also having a significant Mormon population, how could our state rank No. 1?

"It seems strange that to me that could be the case," Devine said.

Boise's lust for all things vineyard-related must make up for it. "Yeah, locally, I totally feel that way," Devine said. "We get a lot of people that love to drink wine. We fill up classes and cellar tastings all the time."

Boiseans have a favorite wine, Devine said -- all of it. "We sell a lot of French wines. We sell a lot of Italian wines. But then we sell a lot of cabernet and chardonnay."

Enough to out-guzzle everyone else in the United States, apparently.

"Who is drinking all this wine?" Dolsby wondered. "I would love to say it's true, and I would love to believe it. But I just don't know."

What we can be sure of is that Idaho's wine industry is growing. Check out all the new wineries and tasting rooms that have appeared in recent years. "The local wine scene here is huge," Devine said.

Still, wine made in the Gem State doesn't explain the VinePair ranking. "Obviously, we don't have enough Idaho wine for everyone in the state of Idaho to consume all that," Dolsby says.

"For someone to do a 'MythBusters' on this," she says, "that would be awesome." -- Clarification: This article was updated to reflect per-capita numbers as gallons of ethanol.

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