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Spanish Wine Now Most Popular in the World, Nudging out French

Spanish wine is now the most popular in the world, says a new report. But the good news for Spain is clouded by the fact that most of its wines are commonly sold in bulk, instead of bottled -- and return less than a third of the profit than French wines do.

Spain's record wine exports last year topped 2.4 billion liters, knocking France off the top spot with only two billion liters, according to the Spanish Wine Market Observatory. But Spanish sales only amounted to 2.6 billion euros, ($2.8 billion) as compared to 8 billion euros for France ($8.7 billion).

REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri REUTERS

"The situation is frustrating, but we know what we have to do to catch up," Rafael del Rey, the head of the Spanish Wine Market Observatory, told the Independent. "We need to sell less wine in bulk to other producers and more Spanish wine that indicates origin. The Spanish wine industry will look very different in 10 years' time."

"Spanish wines can compete with some of the best wines in the world," said Eric Lagarde of M. Touton Selection, which distributes wine in the U.S. "And for the most part they are great value -- especially right now with a stronger dollar."

A depressed domestic market has spurred the rise in exports for Spain: Wine consumption has been in decline for decades in Spain, with more people preferring beer or abstaining. Spain's biggest wine market is now France, where Spanish bulk wine is bottled and exported as a French product.

Spain's most popular wines are Ribera del Duero, Rioja, and Priorat.

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