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Americans love their wine

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If you live in the United States and love wine, you're not alone.

U.S. wine consumption was highest in the world in 2011 and continued to increase in 2012, according to a study by Vinexpo, organizers of the world's largest wine and spirit exposition.

Americans drank about 3.8 billion bottles of wine in 2011. The amount is expected to increase by another half billion bottles annually by 2016.

It's remarkable that the U.S. has become the world's number one wine market and number four wine producer when it was just a beginner 30 or 35 years ago, said Vinexpo Chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre.

Vinexpo publishes a study every two years in preparation for its exposition, held in Bordeaux, France. The huge expo this year is June 16-20. This year's 424-page report can be had for the nominal cost of $1,300.

I passed on the book but was able to glean a few highlights off Vinexpo's website.

— The U.S. is the world's leading consumer of wines priced at more than $10 a bottle.

— The U.S. is the third leading importer of wine and sixth largest exporter.

— U.S. sparkling wine consumption is only about 5.4 percent of the market, but it grew 18 percent between 2007 and 2011 and is expected to double by 2016.

— White wines account for about 40 percent of what U.S. consumers drink. Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato varieties are on the increase, while leading variety Chardonnay sales are starting to lag.

— Red wines account for 60 percent of the U.S. still wine market, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir the leading varieties. Malbec sales — mostly wines from Argentina and Chile — increased 21 percent last year.

— China's consumption of wine and spirits is increasing rapidly. China became the world's fifth leading wine consumer in 2010, behind the U.S., France, Italy and Germany. China is already the world's leading consumer of spirits, mainly a clear liquor made from sorghum, wheat or rice called Baijiu.

Don't worry, we're not a nation drunks yet. Although the U.S. is the world's leading consumer of wine, per capita consumption is well down the list of other countries, according to a graph published last year by The Economist magazine.

Americans consume only about 12 liters per person per year. A paltry amount compared to 52 liters per person per year in France and Italy where consumption has actually dropped in the past five years.

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