Uncorked: Irish wine sales booming again

Record-equalling 9 million cases sold last year as disposable incomes in Ireland rose

Irish wine sales are booming again with a record-equalling 9 million cases sold last year, according to a report from the Irish Wine Association (IWA).

The pick-up in sales was linked to increased levels of disposable income, shifting consumer preferences and the emergence of more competitively priced wines, particularly in the €8 to €9 category.

However, the IWA warned that the relatively high level of excise duty on wine and a possible fall-off in UK tourist numbers due to Brexit posed a risk to sales in the sector.

In 2013, wine sales in Ireland hit a post-crash low of 8.2 million cases. Since then, sales have grown in tandem with economic recovery. Last year's figure matched the level of consumption achieved in 2011.


The report shows that Chile remains the number one country of origin for Irish wine drinkers, accounting for 25.6 per cent of all wine sales here, followed by Australia ( 17.7 per cent), France (12.9 per cent), Spain (12.3 per cent) and Italy (9.7 per cent).


Despite the growth in wine consumption, beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in Ireland, accounting for 46 per cent of all alcohol sales, while wine accounts for just under 28 per cent, albeit this represents a change from 10 years ago when beer sales accounted for 51 per cent of sales and wine accounted for just 21 per cent.

The association used the launch of its report to call for excise duty on alcohol to be reduced in the upcoming budget, suggesting the relatively high rate of excise here was bad for jobs, consumers and tourism. The government had increased excise on wine by 62 per cent since 2012.

These increases introduced during the financial crisis as an emergency measure have created significant cash-flow issues for distributors and importers, as many have to pay excise as an up-front cost, the IWA said, noting wine importers and distributors here were now paying €38,240 up-front, on excise per 1,000 cases when they are imported.

Excise duty

"Irish consumers continue to pay the highest rate of excise on wine in the EU and since 2012 the government has subjected the sector to penal excise increases of 62 per cent," IWA chairman Jim Bradley said.

While 14 EU countries pay no excise on wine, the rate in Ireland equates to €3.19 for a €9 bottle, he said.

"This is 64 cent more expensive than Finland, the second most expensive country in the EU," Mr Bradley added.

“In light of this stark reality, it is imperative that the Government decrease the rate of excise on wine in order to alleviate the risks associated with the impact of Brexit. The benefits of an excise decrease will not only benefit consumers but it will protect and create jobs in the tourism, retail and hospitality trade.”

In its report, the association also noted the negative impact of Brexit on the industry. In particular, it said the weaker sterling was driving an increase in cross-border shopping while fewer British tourists were visiting Ireland.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times