Britons drank more than a billion litres of wine in 2004, a 27 per cent increase since 1999, according to a report by the market analyst Mintel. The popularity of New World wines has continued, overturning the market domination of Old World wines in the past five years. Analysts say that by 2009, the British wine market will exceed pounds 10bn.
Seven in 10 women say they drink wine regularly, compared with six in 10 men. Although men are as likely as women to drink wine at home, 21 per cent of men say they drink white wine in pubs, clubs and restaurants, compared with 36 per cent of women. Women are also more likely to drink red wine. The Mintel research also exposes the idea of the "lager ladette" as largely a myth, with just one in seven women saying they drink pints or bottles of beer on a night out.
James McCoy, senior market analyst at Mintel, said: "The rising number of drinkers going out in the week, particularly more affluent, mid-life singles and the Bridget Jones generation of working women with time and money to spare for luxuries such as wine have boosted sales. Not only is breaking the beer culture among young men an unlikely event, some of them feel there is still a stigma attached to drinking wine down the pub or in a club."
Wine companies have increasingly targeted the female market in advertising and with sponsorship of programmes popular with women, such as Friends and Will and Grace.
The huge rise in wine sales has also been accompanied by a revolution in the market. In 1999, just 17 per cent of consumers said they drank Australian wine and 9 per cent bought Californian brands. By last year, the proportion buying wines from Australia had reached 31 per cent, and the Californian market had a similar increase, with one in seven now buying American brands.
Old World wines have experienced a huge slump over the same period, partly because of the huge marketing budgets of Australian and Californian companies. Just 26 per cent of drinkers said they bought French wines, compared with 29 per cent five years ago, and the proportion favouring German brands has fallen from 18 per cent to 12 per cent. Purchases of South African wine have risen from 11 per cent to 16 per cent.
Mr McCoy said: "Although French suppliers are changing their tactics to compete, the rise of the brand and the New World competition may be too advanced for the French to regain their former stronghold in the United Kingdom."