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Irish wine-sales boom

Published:  23 July, 2008

Wine sales in the Irish Republic are booming at a time when the beer market has slumped, with a reported unprecedented' drop of 11.5% in the first four months of this year and a 9% fall in 2004.

In contrast, wine consumption jumped by a remarkable 14.3% between 2003 and 2004 and now accounts for 19.3% of the e6.4 billion Irish alcohol market, putting it ahead of spirits for the first time. The boom is likely to be strengthened by a government decision to establish continental-style caf bars as an antidote to binge drinking by young people.

According to Mike Finegan, director of the Irish Wine Development Board, sales in the Republic have quadrupled since 1990, though per capita consumption still lags behind that of the UK and other EU states. He acknowledged that the pub smoking ban, which has hit beer sales hard and boosted the off-trade, has been a factor in the current boom, which saw some seven million cases imported last year.

Australian brands top the list in the Irish market, with Chile a surprising second and France third. Wines from the US, South Africa and New Zealand are also popular, with official figures showing that drinkers have a 52/45 preference for red over white.

Dick Dunne, chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, representing brewers, distillers, wine distributors and publicans, described the jump in the market share of wine as 'an exceptional performance'. Taken with the growth in off-trade sales, it was evidence, he said, that Ireland was already moving towards a more European-style market for drink.