The United States has become the world's top wine drinkers in 2011, according to a research.
US consumers downed the equivalent of 3.7 billion bottles of wine, while China including Hong Kong drank 1.9 billion bottles, according to data released by trade show Vinexpo and International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR).
Old World wine drinkers in Italy, France and Germany clung to second, third and fourth places respectively but the New World and the Far East caught the limelight, showed the study of 114 consumer markets and 28 producer countries.
"China is fascinating certainly," said Robert Beynat, CEO of Vinexpo, whose upcoming show in Hong Kong is sold out. "But don't forget about America. America is and will remain the main market in the world in terms of value and volume."
The IWSR study predicts US wine consumption to grow 10 percent between 2011 and 2015. During the same period, it forecasts growth of 54.3 percent for the combined China-Hong Kong market.
In both markets, per capita consumption is also on the rise. By 2015, US consumers are expected to be drinking 13 litres per adult per year, while in China they should be drinking an average of 1.9 to 2.0 litres per adult.
Europe currently accounts for 62 percent of world wine consumption, but that figure is likely to drop, with IWSR predicting tepid growth of 0.4 percent from 2011 to 2015.
In key European markets, French, Italian and British per capita consumption is set to fall, by 4.4 percent, 2.7 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively. Germany is the European exception, with a forecast rise of 2.1 percent.
Global wine consumption is predicted to grow 6.2 percent between 2010 and 2015, reaching 34.1 billion bottles, an increase of two billion bottles.
And tipplers are trading up.
Between 2006 to 2010, wine retailing for $10 (eight euros) or more per bottle grew 14.7 percent, while the $5 to $10 range grew 10.7 percent and low-priced wines retailing for less than $5 grew at a weak 0.95 percent.
"Globally speaking, the world is -- on average -- drinking more and better," said Beynat.
In wine exports, the French are holding their lead in terms of value, with exports worth $8.4 billion (6.6 billion euros) in 2010, up 1.9 percent from 2006.
Italy leads in volume, showing a 30-percent increase between 2006 and 2010, with 2010 exports bringing in $5.1 billion (four billion euros). Spanish wine exports earned $2.4 billion (1.9 billion euros) in 2010.