(Relaxnews) - A new set of statistics reveals that American consumers are growing increasingly thirsty for wine as the US has overtaken Italy to become the biggest market for still light vino, defined as non-sparkling wines up to 14 percent alcohol or lower.
According to UK-based International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR), sales in the US reached 300.6 million cases last year, a rise of 4 percent over 2010.
Comparatively, the Italian market declined by 1 percent to 297.3 million cases. France also experienced a drop, falling 0.8 percent to 271.6 cases.
In the US, demand for domestically produced wines experienced a spike by 5 percent to 221 million cases.
Among the most popular kinds were Moscato and sweet red wines which ‘soared' in 2011.
Imported bottles increased 2 percent to 82 million cases, with US consumers favoring Old World wines. Italian labels, for instance, did particularly well, rising 9 percent. Spanish wine likewise experienced an 8.7 percent spike in demand, followed by 5 percent for French bottles.
While the wine world has been focusing heavily on the Asian market due to the burgeoning middle class, other industry experts have recognized the US as another key opportunity given that per capita consumption is lower than in other countries.
For example, the average intake is 12.1 liters per person in the US a year, compared to Italians, who drink 56 liters a year. Furthermore, the IWSR says that 3.5 million Americans are reaching the legal drinking age annually.
International labels are also hoping to get more shelf space in liquor stores, which are dominated by domestic brands.