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Jan 27, 2009

LONDON (AFP) — Britain was the world's biggest consumer of imported wine by volume in 2007, and wine drinking is expected to keep rising despite the financial downturn, figures out Wednesday showed.

Britain imported more than 1.6 billion bottles in 2007, according to studies by the International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR) for Vinexpo, the organiser of the world's biggest wine and spirits exhibition.

Britain is predicted to remain the top importer in 2012, ahead of Germany, the United States, a booming Russian market, and the Netherlands.

Imported wines make up 99.8 percent of still wine drunk in Britain.

"You've got an ageing population looking for lighter alcohol, consumers for whom wine is becoming much more part of their regular lifestyle," Alastair Smith, the managing director of IWSR, told AFP.

"It's not something bought just on holiday or on special occasions. It's becoming a regular drink."

The top five suppliers of wine to Britain were, in order of importance, Australia, France, the United States, Italy and Spain.

Among them, between 2003 and 2007, imports of wine from the United States increased by 35 percent, with Italian wines up 32 percent, Australian up 27 percent and Spanish wines up 26 percent.

However, imports of French wine slumped by 18 percent.

Britain was 13th in 2007 in terms of the amount of wine drunk per year per person of legal drinking age, at 27.2 litres. France leads the way at 58.8 litres, ahead of Italy (56.4 litres) and Switzerland (49.2 litres).