Americans drank more wine last year as Europeans drank less, making the U.S. the largest consumer of the beverage for the first time, an industry group reported Tuesday.
Global wine consumption totaled 6.4 billion gallons last year, down 0.8% from 2007's level, after years of growth, the Paris-based International Organization of Vine and Wine said, attributing the drop to slowing world economies.
The decline in consumption in Europe offset growth in other countries, such as the U.S., whose consumption passed Italy's for the first time, the organization said.
In a separate report, the San Francisco-based Wine Institute said Americans drank more California wine in 2008 but opted for more-affordable bottles than in 2007.
U.S. sales of California wine totaled 467 million gallons last year, up 2%, but the retail value of the sales fell slightly.
Although their overall consumption declined, foreigners bought more American wine.
U.S. wine exports -- 90% of which are from California -- rose 8% to 130 million gallons last year, topping the $1-billion sales mark for the first time.
Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. saw their collective share of global wine exports rise to 30% last year, up from an average of 23% from 2001 to 2005.
Italy remained the world's largest wine exporter by volume, and France kept the title of biggest wine exporter in terms of value, the international wine group said.