USA becomes world biggest wine market as French drinkers cut down

Tue May 13, 2014 1:00pm EDT
 
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By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS (Reuters) - The United States became the world's biggest market for wine last year, beating France into second place for the first time as consumption slides in the country long seen as its natural home and Americans develop a greater taste for it.

U.S. consumers ‎bought 29.1 million hectoliters of wine in 2013, a rise of 0.5 percent on 2012, while French consumption fell nearly 7 percent to 28.1 million hectolitres, the International Vine and Wine organization OIV said on Tuesday.

U.S. drinkers are, however, still way behind in terms of consumption per head.

According to per capita figures that date from 2011, the average French person still gets through almost 1.2 bottles a week, about six times more than the average American. Nevertheless, the downward trend in consumption through recent years is fairly dramatic in Europe's wine-drinking heartlands.

"In countries such as France, Italy and Spain, people used to drink a lot of wine, but consumption habits are changing," OIV director general Jean-Marie Aurand ‎said on the sidelines of a news conference in Paris.

"We drink less wine by volume, more quality wine. And there is also competition from other drinks such as beer."

"In the U.S., it is different and they are starting from a lower level per capita, so they have a tendency to consume more and more, notably quality wine," he said.

France, the world's third largest wine producer behind Italy and Spain, saw its consumption per capita fall more than 20 percent between 2002 and 2011 to 46.4 liters per year, he said.   Continued...

 
Monica Edwards shops for wine at Central Market in Shoreline, May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante/Files