Wine consumption in the UK has increased by 23% over the past 5 years, according to a report published today.

Figures released by market analysts Mintel show that although beer remains the drink of choice for the UK, with 52% of the alcoholic drinks market, wine is rapidly gaining ground, accounting for just under 25% in terms of value.

The report compared the drinking habits of five EU countries – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – over five years from 1999 to 2004.

According to a different report commissioned by Marketing magazine, branded wine sales have actually outstripped sales of branded beer.

Marketing said that UK shoppers spent £1.97b (€2.9b / US$3.5b) on branded wine in the past year compared to the £1.79b (€2.6b / US$3.22b) they spent on beer.

Although Mintel did not issue specific value figures for each year, wine currently represents nearly 15% of the British alcoholic drinks market by volume.

According to the Mintel report, increased wine sales in the UK are being driven by better marketing and shifting consumer habits, especially among women where growth in wine consumption is predicted to continue.

‘Wine has been the great success story in the alcoholic drinks markets over the last decade,’ the report concluded. ‘UK consumers have proved very ready to adopt continental drinking habits.’

The report highlighted the impact of women on the drinks market, citing their increasing economic and social ‘emancipation’, as well as the increasingly cosmopolitan outlook of the general public over the last 20 years.

‘Sales of wine in the UK are now larger than sales of spirits and the market has been driven by rising incomes, more “aspirational” drinking habits, a trend towards home entertaining and by a massive promotional push from suppliers and retailers,’ said the report.

Also cited as factors of change in the UK wine market were increased media coverage, better-informed consumers and more sophisticated wine layouts in supermarkets.

The only sector of the market in which wine is showing a lack of penetration is in the under-25s where lager, vodka and alcopops dominate the ‘malleable tastes’ of this age group.

Despite a high level of media coverage damning the proposed 24-hour licensing and increasingly relaxed licensing laws, it does not look like the UK is drinking more.

‘Volume consumption of alcohol is not rising significantly, despite the much-publicised over-indulgence amongst some sections of the population,’ says the report.

Overall, the UK has increased alcohol consumption by 5% with Spain posting a rise of 11%. Italy, France and Germany have posted drops of 2, 6 and 8% respectively.

Furthermore, Mintel says the decline of alcohol consumption in France and Germany will continue. Of the five countries examined, Italy currently has the highest percentage of wine drinkers (61%).

‘In France and Germany the cultural zeitgeist seems to be moving towards healthier lifestyles and away from alcohol consumption,’ said Hanna Kivimaki, a senior analyst at Mintel.

Key Facts (Mintel):

Wine as a percentage of each nation’s market (volume)

Italy 61%

France 56%

Spain 23.8%

Germany 16%

UK 14.9%

Wine as a percentage of each nation’s market (value)

France 53.2%

Italy 52.7%

Germany 25%

UK 24.7%

Spain 21.7%

Value sales of alcoholic drinks in the UK (1999-2004)

Beer 52%

Wine 24.7%

Spirits 23.3%

Forecast growth in value sales of wine (2004-2009)

Italy +20.4%

UK +31.5%

France +6.2%

Spain -4.9%

Germany -25.3%

Written by Oliver Styles