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Culture

US overtakes France as world’s top wine consumer

© AFP file picture

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-04

US drinkers have for the first time overtaken the French as the world’s No. 1 wine consumers, a report showed on Tuesday, with Americans developing a greater and more refined taste for France's national beverage.

According to the report released by the International Vine and Wine organization, OIV, US consumers bought 29.1 million hectolitres of wine in 2013, up 0.5 percent from the previous year, while the French cut down on their consumption by nearly 7 percent to 28.1 million hectolitres.

US drinkers are, however, still far behind in terms of consumption per head, it said.

Per capita figures from 2011 show that 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 in recent years is fairly dramatic in Europe’s wine-drinking heartland.

“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.

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

“In the US, 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 in the period 2002-2011, to 46.4 litres per year, he said.

Over the same period, US consumers increased their consumption by nearly 17 percent to 9.1 litres per person per year.

The OIV said the sharp fall on the French wine market last year was exaggerated by an adjustment in its statistical data.

The Paris-based organisation estimated last year’s wine consumption in China down 3.8 percent to 16.8 million hectolitres after a rapid growth over the past 10 years, but Aurand played down the fall, saying this was likely due to large stocks built up in the previous years.

Market recovery ‘still to come’

Overall, world wine consumption last year fell by 1 percent to 239 million hectolitres after four years of near stability.

“The long-awaited recovery that will mark the end of the financial crisis, which began in 2008, is still to take place,” Aurand said.

World wine production last year rose 9.4 percent to 279 million hectolitres, helped by record output in Spain, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand, the OIV said.

International trade in wine in terms of volume fell 2.2 percent to 98 million hectolitres but higher average prices in 2013 led to a 1.5 percent increase in sales to 25.7 billion euros ($35.4 billion).

French exports shed 3 percent by volume, mainly due to low 2012 output, keeping the country behind Italy and Spain in the ranking of world wine exporters, but it remained the world’s top wine exporter in value at 7.8 billion euros ahead of its two main competitors.

For 2014, the OIV warned of a likely sharp fall in output in the southern hemisphere due to adverse weather conditions.

Initial estimates pointed to a decrease of 20 percent in output in Argentina compared to 2013 and a drop of 10 to 20 percent in Chile after last year’s hefty production. Australian production could also fall slightly, the OIV said.

Overall output in the main countries of the southern hemisphere, also including South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand and Uruguay, could fall to between 49 to 53 million hectolitres this year, down 10 percent on 2013, the OIV said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-05-14

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