Americans are buying more wine than their fellow wine enthusiasts in France for the first time ever, according to a recent report by the Wine Institute prepared by Gomberg, Fredikson & Associations.

According to the study, the U.S. wine market grew 2% in 2010 to close to 330 million cases, compared to 321 million cases in France. The French however, still have a greater per capita consumption at 12.2 gallons annually, compared to 2.6 gallons for U.S. residents.

WineAmerica CEO and General Counsel Cary Greene said the U.S. managed to outpace France for the first time for an array of reasons, the first being that consumption in France has been declining for the past few decades.

U.S. consumption has also changed, Greene said, with wine becoming more of a mainstream beverage.

“Forty years ago, it wasn’t thought of as an everyday beverage,” Greene said. “That is not the case anymore. It’s being picked up by Millenials, aged 21-37, who are already drinking wine at a steady clip.”

Jim Gordon, editor of Wines & Vines magazine said this trend was foreseen for several years; however the U.S. outpaced France faster than experts predicted.

“It’s a marker in cultural change,” Gordon said. “In the U.S., wine is a highly accepted beverage for people of all income levels, instead of a specialty beverage. It’s a natural part of American life.”

The average American consumes 2.5 gallons per year, or 12.5 bottles, he said. Much of this wine is extremely cheap, averaging about $8 a bottle monthly.

“Something like 30% of the adult population doesn’t buy alcohol,” Gordon said. “So 70% of that 21 and up market is in the 80-20 rule. 20% of that remainder buys about 80% of the wine.”

The local wine business is also growing coast-to-coast Greene said, and the U.S. reputation for quality wine production is getting better.

“We have great wines being produced in every state,” he said. “People are getting more comfortable with these businesses; they start buying local wines and begin drinking wine more steadily.”

These markets are influencing the industry, he said, even though they may not result in a huge amount of sales.

“It raises consciousness,” Greene said. “It’s amazing how many producers are growing throughout the country. It’s a national phenomenon.”

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