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US Becomes World's Top Wine Market as France's Consumption Drops

FILE - People taste wine during an annual rite known as the Saint Vincent Tournante, in Saint-Aubin, central France, January 2014.
The United States became the world's biggest wine market last year, beating France into second place for the first time as consumption falls in the country widely seen as the drink's natural home.

U.S. consumers bought 29.1 million hectoliters of wine in 2013, a rise of 0.5 percent on 2012, while French consumption fell nearly 7 percent to 28.1 million hectoliters, the International Vine and Wine organization OIV said on Tuesday. U.S. drinkers still are likely way behind, though, in terms of consumption per person.

According to per capita figures that date from 2011, the average French person still gets through almost 1.2 bottles a week, about six times more than the average American, but trends are still diverging.

In countries such as France, Italy and Spain, people used to drink a lot of wine, but consumption habits are changing," OIV director general Jean-Marie Aurand said on the sidelines of a news conference in Paris. "Meanwhile U.S. consumers tend to appreciate wine more and more, and their population is larger," he added.

France, the world's third largest wine producer behind Italy and Spain, but the top exporter in value at 7.8 billion euros [$10.7 billion], saw its consumption per capita fall more than 20 percent between 2002 and 2011 to 46.4 liters per year, he said. Over the same period U.S. consumers raised their consumption by nearly 17 percent to 9.1 liters per person per year.

Overall, world wine consumption last year fell by 1 percent to 239 million hectoliters, the OIV said. Output in the same period rose 9.4 percent to 279 million hectoliters helped by record output in Spain, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.