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U.S. may outsip Italy in wine consumption soon

The world just can't get enough wine.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The world just can't get enough wine.

Global wine consumption, on the rise in past years, is forecast to continue to grow in the coming ones, with the United States overtaking Italy as the world's biggest consumer by 2012, according to a new report released Tuesday by the International Wine and Spirit Record.

The thirst for wine is set to deepen in emerging economies such as China and Russia, whose consumption levels are soon expected to overtake that of Spain, another nation historically associated with wine, the report said.

It predicted that the financial and economic crisis affecting many wine-consuming countries worldwide would only have "limited" consequences for the growth of the wine sector. The report forecast growth for the coming four years roughly in line with pre-crisis trends.

Global production and consumption are both expected to rise, the report said, with production expected to grow by 3.83 percent from 2008-2012 to slightly over 3 billion 2.4-gallon (9-liter) cases.

World consumption is to grow at an even quicker pace — 6 percent — over 2008-2012, reaching 2.8 billion cases, the report said.

The report, commissioned by the Bordeaux, France-based Vinexpo wine body and presented at a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, predicted the United States would dethrone Italy to become the world's biggest consumer of non-sparkling wines by 2012.

In 2007, Italy overtook France, its wine-producing neighbor, to claim the title, buying 299 million cases, the report said. Based on past and current trends, it forecast that U.S. consumers would buy a total of 313 million cases in 2012.

Americans are already spending more on wine than any other nation. In 2007, the U.S. invested nearly $22 billion in wine purchases, the report by the London-based wine market research company said.

Surprisingly, Britons — traditionally more associated with beers and ales — have outspent the French on wine since 2005, the report said. In Russia, expenditures on wine nearly doubled between 2003-2007 and are expected to reach nearly $6.5 billion by 2012.

Europe's three main wine producers, France, Spain and Italy, among them make up half of global production. The three have been hit hard in recent years by increasing competition from New World vintners in the United States, South America and Africa.

The report was commissioned by Vinexpo, which puts on a major wine exhibition every year, to prepare producers for coming trends.