By Richard Ehrlich
Gloomy news reaches me that the Americans will soon overtake the French as the world's greatest consumers of wine. According to a report from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), the USA will pass France within three years if present trends continue.
Wine consumption on the other side of the Atlantic grew by three per cent last year, while in France it fell by two per cent - following a fall of 50 per cent over the last 40 years. The only other great success story for wine is the UK, where consumption went up by a remarkable five per cent last year - which is even higher than in the USA.
Not that it will be much consolation to the French, but things are looking no better for their great competitor: Australia. Producers there have watched their home market slip by just over four per cent in 2005. And while exports are still healthy - obviously more important when the home-grown demand is shrinking - there are also signs that they too are weakening both in volume and in value. Industry analysts attribute the weakness to rising energy costs, which are putting the big chill on all discretionary spending.