Wine sales: drinking up
Nine million cases were sold last year, equalling the highest on record
We like a glass of wine, or two, or maybe more, to judge by the Irish Wine Association’s (IWA) report for last year. Wine sales grew to nine million cases, equalling the highest on record. This upward trend has continued since 2013, when wine sales in Ireland hit a post-crash low of 8.2 million cases.
Though health professionals might frown, wine consumption is often seen as a signifier of the strength of an economy as well as a mark of a society’s sophistication. For instance, as China has grown ever more wealthy its thirst for wine has grown in tandem. In our own modest way Ireland is no different. As wealth grows again some have more money to spend on status buys. And wine, as it has been down the centuries, is very conscious of status.
Increased consumption is also indicative of cultural change, such as the continuing decline of the pub. Ten years ago beer dominated alcohol sales, with 51 per cent of the market compared to 21 per cent for wine. Last year the respective figures were 46 per cent and 28 per cent.
We still buy most wine from the so-called New World, with Chile (25.6 per cent) and Australia (17.7 per cent) heading the IWA list. Vintage producers France (12.9 per cent), Spain (12.3 per cent) and Italy (9.7 per cent) are next. White wine is favoured over red.
But that is where the good news ends, says the IWA. The association, made up of leading importers and distributors, warns that Ireland’s excise duty on wine is the highest in the EU, “64 per cent more expensive than Finland, the second most expensive country”. Since 2012, the Government has increased excise on wine by 62 per cent. Arguing for a lower rate in the forthcoming Budget to alleviate the impact of Brexit, weaker sterling and cross-border shopping, the association states that an “excise decrease will not only benefit consumers but it will protect and create jobs in the tourism, retail and hospitality trade”. The argument has merit, though it must be set against well ventilated arguments about the dangers of cheaper alcohol.