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Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Traditionally dominant European vineyards losing ground to a handful of new producers

AFP , PARIS

Vineyards in the new world and even in China are stealing a march on traditionally dominant European producers in the race to slake the world's fast-growing thirst for wine.

From having a market share of just 1.6 percent 20 years ago, wines from countries like Chile, Australia and the US now have a 25.5 percent slice of the US$100 billion global market, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The EU's five biggest producers -- Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Portugal -- have seen their proportion slump to 62.1 percent from 75 percent in the same period.

But this turning on its head of the industry is only just beginning, as wine consumption rockets in countries like the US, Britain and Germany -- and in Asia, where the rise of a middle class in fuelling a boom in wine consumption.

After seeing consumption halve between 1975 and 2004, France remains the biggest market, consuming 53l per capita every year, ahead of Italy, the US and Germany.

But this is soon to change, with the US set to be the world's biggest wine market by 2008, according to a study by Britain's ISWR/DGR.

US consumption is forecast to rise to 27.7 million hectoliters, up by nearly 30 percent compared to 2003, ahead of Italy with 27.2 million hectoliters and France with 26.9 million, ISWR/DGR expects.

Germans and Britons are also abandoning in droves their steins and pints in favor of a glass of wine, and together with the US the three countries are forecast to account for three quarters in the growth in consumption in coming years.

"In Britain and the US, more and more people are moving to wine at the expense of beer," OIV director Federico Castelluci said.

Global wine consumption fell between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s, but in the past decade the market has been growing at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.

As with other areas of the economy, it is in Asia that the strongest growth is being seen, shooting up 15 percent between 1998 and 2003, compared with just four percent for the rest of the world, according to research institute Euromonitor International.

Europe remains the biggest producer, making around two-thirds of wine consumed globally, but other areas are snapping at their heels, including China, currently the world's seventh biggest producer with 11 million liters annually.

Chinese output is also set to rise up the rankings in coming years, as ambitious winegrowers plant tens of thousands of hectares of vines every year.

Global warming is also having an effect, with warmer weather helping regions previously unsuited to mass winemaking, such as Britain, to make their mark.

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