Monday, April 24, 2006

Wine consumption climbs in US, will overtake France

Worldwide consumption of wine has slowly crept up over the past decade, and the United States is on track to overtake France as the biggest guzzler in the next two years, according to new studies.
Global consumption hit 235.6 million hectolitres (6.22 billion gallons) last year, the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said in a report released Thursday.
Although that represented a mere 0.1 percent rise over 2004, the average annual increase over the past decade is in the order of 0.5 percent, it said, noting that a dip recorded up to the mid-1990s had now reversed itself.
OIV director general Frederico Castellucci said he expected the increase to continue this year, by around one million hectolitres.
France, though, is continuing to suffer from a slump in consumption. Last year saw a 1.6 percent drop over the previous year to 32.6 million hectolitres, or 55 litres per inhabitant per year.
If that trend continues, the United States, currently in third place behind Italy in the consumption stakes, is set to become the biggest wine-drinking country in the world in 2008, according to a study by British firm ISWR/DGR.
OVI said US consumption in 2005 jumped 3.3 percent to 25.4 million hectolitres, and ISWR/DGR estimates it will reach 27.66 million in two years' time when France's consumption dives to 26.9 million.
Castellucci said: "In Britain and the United States, we have the pleasure of seeing that people are drinking more and more wine, to the detriment of beer."
Italy has a slender lead over France in terms of wine production, putting out 50.556 million hectolitres to France's 50.550 million. Spain follows with 35.3 million, then the United States with 23.5 million — though the latter is rapidly growing.
France's loss of prestige in a market it once dominated is all the clearer in the export numbers. There, it fell to third place in 2005, sending abroad less wine than Italy and Spain.

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