When Kevin Zraly first started studying wines almost 50 years ago, it wasn’t the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.
“People looked at me like I was nuts studying wines,” Zraly said. “All my friends were drinking beer.”
At 21, Zraly hitchhiked to California to get exposure to the wines there. And after graduating from college, he took off for Europe.
By the time Zraly was 25, he was hired by restaurateur Joe Baum. The role took him to Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center.
Zraly worked there until the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, the restaurant reportedly had the largest wine sales of any restaurant in the world.
The eatery served as the inspiration for Zraly’s wine course and corresponding book, “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.”
Today, Zraly still teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced wine students. And his book, which is updated every year, is one of the top-selling wine books in the world.
Over Zraly’s career, consumers’ attitudes toward wine have changed. The U.S. is now the number one global consumer of wine. And millennials are now the number one consumers, followed by baby boomers.
What’s more, U.S. wine consumption has continually gone up in the past 25 years, Zraly said.