WORLD BOOZE BRIEFING VINEXPO CONFERENCE

The British taste for bacchanalia is on the rise, according to a massive drink report announced yesterday, conducted by IWSR (International Wine and Spirit Research) in conjunction with Vinexpo, the massive industry fair.

The UK remains the number one importer of wine in the world – of which our favourite is Australian – in terms of value and volume. In 2010 we sank 147.12m 9 litre cases or, wait for it, 1.765bn bottles – We drank 5.5 per cent more wine in 2009 than in 2005. And guess what? We’re set to keep on glugging: the forecast shows our rate of consumption will grow by a fairly moderate 2.9 percent by 2014. 2007 was a big turning point for us: it was the first year we spent more than the French on wine. Last year, total sales reached £8.642bn RSP (recommended selling price). Vive L’Angleterre.

We love our wine but we don’t want to spend too much on it: the average bottle price is stable at £5.21 per bottle (nearly a pound less than the average in the US), though we are slowly spending a bit more a bit more often (in the £6-£7 per bottle range).

As for spirits, vodka is king, stealing ground from Scotch and cognac. UK consumption of spirits soared by 6.1 per cent between 2005 and 2009 – we drank 8.43m cases of vodka in 2010, a growth of 20 per cent since 2005. Rum is coming up in the world thanks to huge marketing campaigns and our enduring love of cocktails.

And what about China? The Chinese taste for wine is soaring and so is production. China is the seventh largest producer of wine in the world now (putting it above Chile and South Africa), though much of it is still home-grown. As it stands, the bulk of China’s imported wine comes from France. Imports are set to rise drastically – between 2005 and 2009, Chinese consumption of wine rose by 103.37 per cent.

However, savvy growers should look to Argentina – the US is investing in a big way in its wine industry, and investment is coming from Chile and Europe too.

Think that Europe’s getting left behind? It isn’t – yet. France is the biggest exporter in the world, by volume and value, with 495m cases produced per year and Italy just behind it. Nearly half the world’s wine comes from France, Italy and Spain, and Italy is the world’s biggest consumer of wine. That said, the European countries are producing at a negative rate of growth, in part due to harvests and changing weather.

Spirits – vodka and rum in particular – are racing ahead, with 7.61 per cent growth from 2005-2010: world spirits consumption reached 2.7bn 9-litre cases last year, and the market is set to grow over the next four years. Asia Pacific dominates the spirits market, by a long way. Chin chin.

Vinexpo, the world’s biggest wine and spirits industry fair, will be held this year in Bordeaux between 19-13 June. www.vinexpo.com.