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Wine Buying Trends - A look at the Irish wine market

Wine and the Market

The Wine Development Board of Ireland has been doing a good job. It must have been, because its job is to promote wine and in the years 1990 to 2002 the number of wine drinkers rose by 82%. The number of people who drink wine is now almost exactly half the population, compared with a little over a quarter in 1990.

The Wine Development Board of Ireland has been doing a good job. It must have been, because its job is to promote wine and in the years 1990 to 2002 the number of wine drinkers rose by 82%. The number of people who drink wine is now almost exactly half the population, compared with a little over a quarter in 1990.

In terms of volume of wine, the growth in consumption has been remarkable. Back in the sad old days of the 1950s wine sales in Ireland amounted to less than 200,000 cases a year, and my guess is that a significant amount of that was altar wine. By 1970 sales had tripled, by 1990 had tripled again, and by 2002 had tripled again, so by 2002 we were drinking 27 times as much wine as we did in 1950. You won't be surprised to learn that the really big increases in sales were during the 1990s, the years of the economic boom.

Hidden within these figures are some interesting breakdowns. Marginally more red than white is sold, sparkling wines make up less than 2% of wine sales, only slightly below rose sales, a mere 3% of table wines. Of all spending on alcohol (spirits, beer, cider and wine) spending on wine has increased from 8% in 1994 to 14.1% in 2002, beer being the main loser, dropping from 65.5% to 55.8% of all alcohol sales.

The largest increase in wine buying has been among the traditionally less well paid, and by women all across the social spectrum. Today women wine buyers outnumber men buyers by almost 30%. It may be reasonable to assume then, that the beer market remains predominately male, while the wine market is more female. The wine market is becoming increasingly varied as well. Whereas once it was dominated almost exclusively by French wines, today both Chilean and Australian wines outsell French wines. Put another way, nearly two thirds of all wine sales in Ireland are now non EU wines.

The increase in consumption has been remarkable, but in European terms our consumption of wine still seems modest. By 2002 our per capita consumption was 12.6 litres per annum, which compares to 50 litres in Italy and 56.9 in France. Ireland still has the lowest consumption of wine per capita in Europe, which may be a result of the extraordinarily high taxes on wine here. Irish excise duty on wine is the highest in Europe at five times the average, currently €2.05 per bottle for table wine and €4.10 for sparkling wine. This compares to Italy, Spain, Germany and Greece where the duty is zero, and France where it's €0.03 and €0.06 respectively.

Recommended wine

Z de l'Arjolle 2001

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