World Wine Consumption Falls for 1st Time in Years

By Greg Keller | April 7, 2009 | 11:23 AM EDT
Paris (AP) - Wine drinkers in France, Italy and across Europe uncorked fewer bottles last year as the global economy slowed dramatically, leaving the United States as the world's largest consumer, an industry group said Tuesday.
After years of non-stop growth, global wine consumption contracted by 0.8 percent last year, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine's first estimate. That is the first drop since records began in 2004.
Falling wine consumption in Europe offset growth in other countries, such as the U.S., which for the first time surpassed Italy in terms of total consumption, the organization said in its annual report on the market.
In another shift in the industry, European vineyards accounted for less than half of the world's grape production for the first time, the organization's director general Federico Castellucci said at a news conference in Paris.
"It is obvious that the world economic crisis has played a role in lowering overall demand," Castellucci said.
World wine consumption last year fell to 243 million hectoliters (6.4 billion gallons), down from 245 million hectoliters in 2007. Consumption fell in all of Europe's major wine-producing and consuming countries, including France, Italy and Germany, Europe's biggest wine-drinking nations.
This was partly offset by the rising thirst for wine in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Wines from the so-called "New World" Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the United States saw their share of global wine exports rise to nearly 30 percent last year, up from an average of 23.3 percent between 2001 and 2005. Italy remains the world's largest wine exporter measured by volume, although France keeps the title of biggest wine exporter in terms of value, Castellucci said.
Another bright spot in the wine world is Brazil, where "people are starting to really believe in the vine," Castellucci said. Brazil now has about 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of vineyards, up from 79,000 hectares in 2005, but still behind Argentina's 225,000 hectares and Chile's 198,000 hectares.
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