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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

The UK will become the largest European wine market by value (including duty) for still light wines (slw) by 2008, according to new research. Only the US market will be bigger, moving from fourth to number one - overtaking France, which is predicted to fall 7% to $9.3 billion (although it will remain number one in terms of volume). The research, Consumer Trends in the International and UK Wine and Spirits Market and Outlook to 2008', was unveiled last week by Vinexpo chief executive Robert Beynat and Val Smith of IWSR (International Wines and Spirits Record), as a curtain-raiser to Vinexpo's forthcoming exhibition in Bordeaux. It said that wine sales in the UK have increased by 25.6% since 1999 to 5.06 billion and are forecast to grow by a further 19% to 6.03 billion, putting the UK ahead of Germany, Italy and France in terms of sales. Global consumption of the still light wine category is predicted to grow by 6.4% over the next three years, with the UK, US and Germany accounting for nearly three-quarters of that growth - taking them to a 28.7% share of consumption. Italy is set to overtake France in terms of yearly per capita consumption - with Italians projected to increase their consumption by a further 3.3% to 60.2 litres per person per year (France: 58.8 litres, 15.1% less than in 1999). Italy, France and Spain still account for nearly one-third of the world's still light and sparking wine consumption. By 2008, Scandinavia and Russia are predicted to consume more still light wines than Spain, while light wine consumption in Asia is forecast to increase by more than 15%. Worldwide, growth in terms of the value of wine sales is expected to increase two-and-a-half times faster than volume. The report also predicts that consumer demand worldwide is concentrating on better-quality wine, with volumes of slw at less than $5 (77.3% of volume in 2003) only increasing by 3.1% between 2003 and 2008, while volumes of slw between $5 and $10 and $10+ will grow by 17%. On spirits, the research pinpoints Asia as the leading region for spirits consumption, with vodka and Cognac continuing to grow but Scotch, gin and bourbon losing ground. In the UK, spirits drinking has increased by 10.5% between 1999 and 2003 and should rise by a further 7.3% to 2008 to 27.79 million nine-litre cases. The research sees vodka and liqueur consumption growing and gin remaining stable, but Scotch is forecast to decline by a further 8.1% in the UK.