In the battle of wine vs. beer, why choose?

A recent Gallup poll found that, for the first time ever, Americans now prefer wine to beer.

As a wine drinker, I'm happy to hear the news, but I'm also not surprised by it. I've seen the transformation first-hand.

I grew up in the Midwest, in a family of beer drinkers. They don't drink fancy beers, either, I'm talking Budweiser and Coors Light. At family gatherings, everyone has a cold one in hand.

When I was home in May for my brother's graduation party, I was surprised to see that, in addition to beer, my parents had bought several bottles of red and white wine.

I was also surprised to see both reds and whites being iced down in a cooler, but I tried not to laugh too hard. After all, people don't turn into wine experts overnight.

What had happened in the eight years since I moved away from home? Well, for one thing, wine has lost its stigma of being snobby. As I mentioned before, that kind of thing doesn't fly in my family.

I guess it all started a couple years ago, when one of my uncles saw the movie "Sideways."

He already had the ultimate beer-lover's basement, including a bar with several brews on tap. So, figuring he'd done about as much as he could in the beer world, he turned to the world of wine.

Now, for a person who is used to drinking beer, the switch to wine does come with some sticker shock. Trader Joe's "Two-Buck Chuck" notwithstanding, most wine ain't cheap.

So my uncle picked up one of those kits that lets you make wine at home. He foisted glass after glass onto unsuspecting relatives, and they slowly began to warm to it.

Just because my uncle enjoys a glass of wine every now and then, though, doesn't mean he's going to stop drinking beer.

That's what I don't understand about this whole beer vs. wine battle - why do we have to pick sides?

In the wine/beer grudge match, wine is often portrayed as something to be savored, taking time to taste each flavor. Beer is supposedly something you drink to, well, get drunk, paying no attention to how it tastes.

As Americans become more and more accustomed to a "foodie" lifestyle, the argument is that we'll naturally lean toward wine, the alcoholic beverage that is appreciated, not chugged.

Beer companies are shaking in their boots, but I don't buy it.

I'm an equal opportunity alcohol drinker. Unlike a lot of beer drinkers, though, I don't stick with a tried-and-true brew. When I order beer in a restaurant or bar, I usually try one of the seasonal specialties. I pay attention to the flavors, too. I like drinking pale ales that taste like oranges or blueberries, and stouts that have chocolate or coffee overtones.

Sometimes, I'll even down a glass of wine with no thought to where the grapes were grown or what food it pairs best with.

I'm a wine person AND a beer person (and a rum person and a gin person ... ), and I am not ashamed.

E-mail Shelley Mann at shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.