Anthony Rose: The recession shouldn't affect wine sales too badly. The world will not stop drinking wine

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Lies, damned lies, and statistics? Look away now if you don't want to know about how the wine world will shape up in 2012. The Bordeaux Wine Trade Fair – Vinexpo – has had a survey of past results and future trends carried out for it by the International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR). The forecasts in the IWSR's previous survey in 2006 proved to be only marginally out, so it's fair to say that a sparkling and rosé future awaits producers everywhere.

Global wine production is set to rise by 4 per cent to slightly over three billion cases and it will be tracked by an almost equal rise in consumption. Thanks to a continuing thirst for rosé sparkling wine, today's two fastest growing styles will each account for one in every 10 bottles of wine we drink. It may come as a surprise to some to discover that the main contributors to an almost parallel rise in consumption are China and Russia. But wine drinking in both has gone through the roof in the past five years and will outpace Spain in four years' time.

According to the survey, Americans, who already spend the most of any country on wine, will overtake the Italians, last year's winners, as the world's biggest consumers of wine by 2012. The Italians however will knock the French off their perch to become the biggest drinkers of wine per head, at 56.4 litres per head. It's not all about volume though. Vinexpo's research suggests that the biggest loser over the next few years will be rotgut plonk. Three in every four bottles of wine drunk worldwide will continue to be £2.99 or less, but we'll be far more prepared to pay for wines up to £5.99, and wines of £6 and above will double to almost one in 10.

You might not know it from the red-top scare stories, but in the UK we still drink a comparatively modest 27 litres per head, putting us 13th in the world's pecking order just behind Australia. Despite that, we managed to knock Germany off top spot as the world's biggest importers of wine last year, although the Germans retain the fizz crown (we will be up to sixth place by 2012). It might be just a little galling for the French to discover that we have outspent them on our wines since 2005. We managed to knock back 135m cases of wine last year, making us the world's wine producers' darling.

Australia is now our favourite wine-producing country. Over the past five years, sales from France have decreased by 20 per cent, with that shortfall being made up by Australian producers. Next, in terms of sales, come the US, Italy and Spain. Our tastes in the UK are split between reds and whites, but while whites are anticipated to grow at a slower rate and reds fall, sparkling wines will be up by more than 20 per cent, and the success of rosé will continue with a rise of nearly 50 per cent over the next four years. Overall, UK wine consumption is predicted to increase by nearly 7 per cent to 155m cases by 2012.

Vinexpo's CEO Robert Beynat admits that most of the findings were carried out before the present crisis. He seemed confident from past experience, though, that the recession shouldn't seriously affect wine sales too badly. "The world is drinking more, and the world is drinking better. The world will not stop drinking wine," he said. According to the French government, the French 2008 harvest will be one of the lowest of the past 16 years. Beynat will at least be able to drown his sorrows in the world's never-ending wine lake, predicted to reach 115m cases in four years' time.

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