U.S. is tops in wine drinking, and most of it is red varieties

America's love affair with wine continues. We're pulling further ahead of Europe, but seeing increased competition from China. That's the conclusion of a new study by Vinexpo, the world's most influential wine exhibition, which takes place June 16-22 in Bordeaux France, expecting 48,000 visitors from 140 nations.

Here's what the study found:

  • United States sippers reaffirmed our country's role as the world's No. 1 wine consumer, drinking 3.8 billion bottles in 2011, up 4.5 percent from 2010. We will sip an additional two bottles each a year by 2016, the study says.
  • We love champagnes and sparkling wines, with consumption up 18 percent between 2007 and 2011.
  • We still like white wines, with consumption up 10 percent since 2007 — led by pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc and moscato, with chardonnay slumping. White wines make up 40 percent of the wines we drink.
  • Sixty percent of the wines Americans drink are red, although we lost to China our position as the world's third-largest red wine consumer after France and Italy. We're predicted to increase red wine consumption by 18 percent by 2016. Our top three reds: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir.
  • Malbec, the mellow, hearty red wine from Argentina and elsewhere, is also gaining fast — up 21 percent in the past year, according to Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, industry analysts.
  • Meanwhile, European wine drinkers are cutting back — with German wine consumption down 3 percent, Britain down 4 percent, France down 7 percent and Italy down 3 percent and unemployment-wracked Spain down 20 percent between 2007 and 2011.
  • As Americans drink more wine, France, ironically, is drinking more Coca-Cola — tripling its consumption in the past 20 years to 149 cans apiece per year.
  • In spirits, worldwide vodka consumption was down 5 percent, brandy up 23 percent and rum up 22 percent.
  • China is becoming more important, as the world's leading spirits consumer. More than one-third of all the spirits consumed in the world are made up of a Chinese white spirit called Baijiu, distilled from sorghum, wheat or rice. It's described as vaguely citrus-flavored, with high alcohol and a fiery bite. I think I'll stick with wine.


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