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French wine consumption to lose top spot to US in 2010

France, the world's biggest consumer of wine, will lose the top spot to the U.S. by 2010, a British survey released this Tuesday, reports

Tougher drink-and-drive rules and changing tastes and habits are contributing to a sharp drop in wine consumption in France . At the same time, the new world wines including those from Australia,  U.S., Chile, South Africa and Argentina are boosting wine-drinking in the U.S. and the U.K.

French consumption is expected to drop 9.3 percent between 2005 and 2010 to 24.9 million hectolitres, while U.S. consumption is set to rise 19 percent to 27.3 million hectolitres, the survey by London-based market reserch group, International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR) shows.

The study was commissioned by Vinexpo in 2001 and surveyed 114 wine consuming nations and 28 wine producing countries.

' France is obviously the country with the most significant decline in wine consumption,' said Jean-Marie Chadronnier, the president of Vinexpo and a winemaker in Bordeaux, at a press conference in Paris. 'Consumption has been divided by half in the past 50 years. We hope the declining trend is close to its end,'  he added.

'The world is drinking more and better, more expensive wines,' Robert Beynat, the VinExpo secretary general, said.

By 2010, the U.S. market will become the biggest in terms of sales value. Forecasts for the 2005-2010 period show a 19 percent increase, to $22.75 billion. Within three years, French drinkers will be overtaken by Italians. French will consume 58.8 liters of wine per capita, while the Italians will drink 59.7 liters.

Worldwide consumption is expected to grow between now and 2010 by 4.8 percent to 238.8 million hectoliters. Sales worldwide were valued to $91.6 billion in 2005 by IWSR, a 9.7 growth from 2001. Sales are expected to rise another 9.6 percent by 2010.

The U.K. market is the 'trendsetter,' said Robert Beynat, the chief executive officer for the Bordeaux-based trade fair which takes place every two years. 'They are the most powerful in terms of distribution and sales. Everyone looks at how Tesco is selling wine.'

Asian wine consumption is expected to rise more than 21 percent between 2005 and 2010, with India and Taiwan leading the gains. China is Asia 's biggest market and may grow about 36 percent in that period to 5.7 million hectoliters a year. China and Russia are emerging as growth areas for top-end, luxury French wines.

The study also looked at trends in the spirits industry, forecasting that the global spirits market would be worth $181 billion in 2010 compared with $170 billion in 2005.

Tequila, cognac and rum are set to replace vodka as the fastest growing spirits, the study found.

For details, read

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