Wine coolers: gone and almost forgotten

jeter1 Wine coolers, remember those things? Bartles and Jaymes? “Thank you for your support.”

Anyway, you’re hardly alone if you haven’t had one in the past decade–sales have lost their fizz, declining 95% in that time. Indeed, now they have become a hilarious insult as in the above t-shirt offered by Boston Red Sox fans.

Wine coolers actually did have some wine in them a long time ago. Not anymore. Congress raised the federal excise tax on wine to $1.07 a gallon, effective January 1, 1991. Doesn’t sound like a lot but the previous rate was $0.17/gallon, so it quintupled. That put the economic kibash on coolers and now they they are made from malt. “Wine” cooler, indeed! I vote for a name change. Malt cooler?

Anyway, some important wine cooler trivia: which state had the honor of consuming the most “wine” coolers in 2005, almost beating the second and third states combined? Hit the comments below and the glory will be yours.

Image: chowdaheadz.com/jedrwicot.html

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26 Responses to “Wine coolers: gone and almost forgotten”


  1. I’m gonna go with Florida. An educated guess based on the number of retirees who like wine spritzers…and possibly even underage spring breakers.


  2. Texas


  3. I second TX


  4. Dr. Vino,

    You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a wine cooler. Based on the date you provided below, I wasn’t 21 (not that that stopped me), but my high school/college consumption was generally limited to beer, a sniff of wine (peer pressure) and a finger or two of Jack Daniels in your presense. But no wine cooler.

    Then again, I’m sure there was a party or two that I went rooting around for one final beer and had to settle on a wine cooler (malt cooler). I’m certainly not too good for them!

    I think the beverages that have taken over for wine coolers are the Smirnoff Ice and hard ciders, etc. I’m not sure what is in the Smirnoff Ice aside from vodka. Interesting.


  5. Oh and I go with California.


  6. I’ll go with Rhode Island because I read a hilarious article about how per capita that state had more abuse of any/all substances than any other. Not that anyone would ‘abuse’ a wine cooler, but I think it’s a safe bet anyway.


  7. You are all as smart as ever. Today’s glory goes to…Andy!! And Andy, I don’t think I’ve ever had a wine cooler either. Though I do remember the ads…

    California consumed 78,000 9 liter cases of wine coolers in 2005.

    The surprise tie for second was between Florida (nice, Brooklynguy!) and…Pennsylvania?!? Each had 40,000 cases.

    TX had 15,000 cases; RI 1,500. All this comes from Adams Wine market.


  8. Obviously the highest-population states consumed the most wine coolers by quantity. But which state had the highest per capita consumption of coolers? Enquiring minds want to know!


  9. I worked in Chicago way back when people drank wine coolers. My boss told me to say “Thank you for your support” when people donated to the charity I was promoting. People found it hilarious and asked me to say it again and again. Not being American and not having a TV I thought it was an accent thing. It took someone giving me a four pack of them and explaining it slowly before I realised my boss was just mean.


  10. I vote Texas, too. My father-in-law quit drinking over 30 years ago because he wanted to quit smoking. The only time he imbibes these days is to occasionally drink the Stawberry Dacquiri B&J coolers that his girlfriend (in her 60s) likes. He calls it “strawberry wine.” To see this 70-ish country-bred South Texas man, who worked 30 years as a union boilermaker, toddling around a party with a “wine”cooler in his hand cracks me up every time.


  11. Steve,

    Your wish is my command! Well, if only because the opposite page in the book has per capita figures.

    I’ll spare you another round of guessing to reveal that the per capita winner is…Pennsylvania! How weird is that?!

    Their 4.4 nine liter cases consumed per 1,000 adults is the highest, followed by AZ with 4.3. KS (!) has 4.2 and IL (Golly, above!) has 4.1. Others mentioned above include RI at 1.9 and TX at 0.9.

    Wine Scamp, you’ll have to point out to your father in law that it’s not even a grape based beverage any more! Someone alert the Center for Wine Origins!


  12. Unless my memory is playing tricks, I think it’s actually impossible to find any coolers labeled WINE COOLERS anymore. THey just look very much like the old bottles of Bartyles & James et al, and are just called coolers.

    Someone needs to alert those Red Sox fans…


  13. True, Tish! They go by “berry cooler,” “melon cooler,” “fuzzy navel cooler,” and the like now…Spoken like a good Yankees fan.


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  16. Bummer… and I really liked wine coolers. Especially the Matilda Bay stuff. I wondered whatever happened to them. But when a 4 pack of Bartles and James is $2.35 @ walmart and the fed tax is $1.17 on the wine part, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened. Hmmm… was just reading that most wine coolers were homemade from the beginning.. haven’t drank in years, but have just started again last month… (I’m a bit drunk now, as a matter of fact)… I’ll have to see what it takes to make a wine cooler…. :D


  17. I vote for a revolutionary repeel of the wine tax… do we have anyone in government that doesn’t think that alcohol is evil anymore? I think MADD has gone too far… not that i drink and drive… im too paranoid… but jeezus folks… I don’t smoke either… but whats up with banning cigarettes in public for the entire state of arizona??? (WHere I live).. it’s just getting crazy… these aren’t evil things.. just annoying ones… $6.50 a freaking pack of cigarettes? my pappy used to have me buy cartons for hom at less than $10 and that was only a couple decades ago… breads still about a buck a loaf… maybe im a bit too drunk,,,, but these jerks in washington need to realize you can’t regulate things like that… just drives the medium underground… which is why there’s a whole pirate industry of stealing and selling cigarettes on the black market these days… maybe I should have a garden and grow tobacco and grapes… then pirate my own vices…. heck… let me raise some hookers and I’ll have it all covered… i better not submit this… im going down fast…


  18. Can you believe that California Cooler started it all and sells to Brown-Foreman (Producer of Jack Daniels) for $150 million in 1985? Incredible to believe that for a good 5-8 year span wine coolers were a major selling point. Now I don’t even think they make them anymore, do they?


  19. Does anyone have any idea where I can get California Coolers. I heard they started re-distributing them in 2007 but I cant find a distributor anywhere. California Coolers….the one that started it all. I love those.


  20. I remember buying 2 liter bottles of California Coolers here in Houston in the late 80’s. They were the bomb, a wine cooler in a soft drink bottle! True wine coolers were the best!! Malt beverage coolers, not so much!!


  21. Drank a hell of a lot of wine coolers in highschool in the late 80’s and loved them. Malt coolers are not good.


  22. Winecoolers were a “gateway” drink when I was in highschool, and it was also one that girls wanted to share with you.
    I rembember, before they began producing them commercially, they were very popular at yuppie parties.


  23. I tried a wine cooler about 9 months back after not having one in 20 years. It was disgusting! I turned the bottle around to discover Malt in the ingredients list. The industry has changed a wonderful drink into a nasty beer like product. Boy how I miss the 80’s!!


  24. I was wondering what happened to the REAL wine coolers! I thought it was related to state law or something as I moved from OH to OK in 1993. I liked the plain “green grape” kind, not the fancy flavors.


  25. i remember they got you drunk fast and chicks loved them.used camp out in the field and drink them,very good.a couple of guys and some wine cooler was all you needed.memories of the good old days.i could go for one right now,ill settle for bartell and jamison a couple of fine ladys would be nice as well.jay moved to fla.rick moved out the party was over,until you find a new one.


  26. I remember drinking B&J wine coolers as a kid; my folks would let me have them @home or on picnics (one of the benefits of growing up Italian) :D

    On the other hand, does anyone recall Bartles & Jaymes coming up with a new line of designer jockstraps? Now all us guys can thank them for THEIR support! :p


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