Broke Europe finds wine losing its flavour

As the world comes to terms with the recession, the wine industry has for the first time recorded a decline in consumption and sales - particularly in European countries that are traditionally the largest producers and consumers of wine, such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK.

On the other hand, consumption in the US, Canada and the rest of the Americas increased in 2008, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine. But the growth was not enough to offset the drop elsewhere.

The overall drop isn't too dramatic: The group says its initial estimates for 2008 show consumption down 0.8 per cent, at 243 million hectoliters (6.4 billion gallons) compared to 2007's 245 million hectoliters. But the latest figures on wine making and drinking around the world reveal a few key shifts. 

New World drinkers are still sipping steadily and Brazilians "are really starting to believe in the vine'', it said. Argentina and Chile also continue to be major consumers.

For the first time, the United States surpassed Italy in terms of total wine consumption, with 27.3 million hectoliters compared to 26 million for Italy. On the vineyard end, European vineyards accounted for less than half the world's grape production for the first time last year.

"It is obvious that the world economic crisis has played a role in lowering overall demand," the organization's director, Federico Castellucci, said at a news conference in Paris.