It's official: The United States drinks more wine than any other nation on earth. Americans consumed 329 million cases in 2013—a 1 percent increase over 2012, and 18 percent, or 51 million cases, over 2005—making the U.S. now the world's top wine market by volume, according to data from Impact Databank.
Projections in recent years had put the U.S. on track to pass France, based on steady yearly growth in American wine consumption, coupled with declining thirst for wine in most European countries. While a younger generation of Americans is embracing wine, powering especially strong growth in segments like imported wine, sweet wine, sparkling wine and dry rosé, their young counterparts in traditional wine cultures like France and Italy are less enthusiastic.
That generational shift and a struggling economy in most E.U. markets in recent years has led to steady declines in Europe. French consumption dipped 7 percent in 2013 to 313 million cases, according to Impact Databank, a sister publication of Wine Spectator, continuing a drop-off of 14 percent since 2005. Italy, ranked third for now, has seen consumption decline 21 percent since 2005. Fourth-ranked Germany is up 4 percent, including a 1.5 percent hike over 2012, but consumption has fluctuated there in the past decade.
For years, China has been a target for wine exporters. Consumption in the developing market shot up 38 percent by volume between 2005 and 2012 as the People's Republic experienced years of high economic growth, making it the fifth-largest market. But 2013 saw the first downturn in years—a 6 percent decline from 2012, to 187 million cases. An austerity drive led by President Xi Jingping and a growing skepticism toward extravagant wine prices among China's elite are considered the causes of the dip.
While the U.S. is not the top country in per-capita consumption, it is now the only country in the top five that has posted an increase every year since 2000. Globally, consumption was down last year by 1.7 percent, to 2.6 billion cases, according to Impact Databank's upcoming 2013 Wine Market report. (Still, that's 31.2 billion bottles of wine consumed in one year.) As wine continues to captivate American consumers, the United States is the top wine culture for the foreseeable future.