TORONTO - Wine producers will be proposing a toast to Canadian consumers: a new study shows wine consumption in this country is growing three times faster than globally and Canada is projected to be the fifth fastest-growing wine market in the next five years.

Most of the wine consumed in Canada is imported but "Canada is now very strong on the production side and domestic wines are getting more popular," said Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre in a telephone interview, speaking from Toronto.

"But the fact there is now a local industry, particularly here in Ontario, is helping the overall picture. Volume-wise it's certainly a country where consumption is going up. Our forecast is it will continue to go up in the next five years."

De Eizaguirre said Canada's per capita wine consumption is around 15 litres a year, compared to about 12 in the U.S.

"France, Italy, Spain, the traditional markets, consume somewhere around 50 litres per capita. England is about 25, Argentina is about 45, so there is a lot of potential" for Canada to increase its consumption, he said.

Between 2007 and 2011, Canadian wine consumption increased by 14.55 per cent. Consumption hit 43.21 million cases in 2011; one case represents 12 bottles.

Analysts said that between 2012 and 2016 Canadian wine consumption will go up 14.27 per cent, eventually reaching 50.7 million cases annually, which is three times greater than the global average.

Between 2012 and 2016, China, the United States, Russia and Germany will be ahead of Canada in wine consumption. In the previous five years, Canada was third behind China and the U.S.

"You've dropped back because the others have gone quite crazy," de Eizaguirre said.

"I'm personally amazed by the Canadian picture. This country is really growing in terms of consumption, which I think is due to a number of factors.

"Of course the population is growing and you guys have been in pretty good shape in this terrible economic crisis, so I think it is a combination of factors, but it is indeed a market that is growing in all categories."

Italy has taken over from France as Canada's leading wine supplier. De Eizaguirre thinks the popularity of Italian food is the reason.

"The Italian cuisine has almost become a cuisine of the world and obviously the Italian wines are following. There is a demand here in Canada which is growing bigger and bigger and bigger, which is partially due to that phenomenon," he said.

"They're very aggressive and good marketers and they have very good products too. So pretty good value for the dollar, you know."

American, Chilean and Spanish wines gained ground in the Canadian market in the five-year period from 2007 to 2011 with growth of 42.75 per cent, 25.12 per cent and 26.82 per cent respectively. New Zealand has become the eighth-largest supplier of wines to Canadian consumers, almost doubling between 2007 and 2011.

Canadian consumption of spirits, meanwhile, is rising moderately, with vodka being the tipple of choice. Canadians drank 1.73 per cent more spirits in 2011 than in 2007 and growth in consumption is expected to reach a further 3.7 per cent between 2012 and 2016.

De Eizaguirre said vodka is popular because it is an easy-drinking spirit, on the rocks or not, and mixes well in cocktails. Many coolers use vodka as their base and producers are also making flavoured vodkas.

The Asia-Pacific region consumes the most spirits, with 61.5 per cent of global consumption in 2011.

In Canada, consumption of sparkling wine is expected to grow, with an 8.52 per cent increase between 2012 and 2016.

Although rose wines have a very small percentage (3.63 per cent) of the overall still wine market in Canada, they are booming — consumption leaped 38.24 per cent between 2007 and 2011, and they are forecasted to grow 45.41 per cent between 2012 and 2016.

The Vinexpo study found people are now typically spending US$10 or more per bottle of wine. In Canada, that translates to 69.5 per cent of still wines purchased. The up-market trend is expected to continue, with a growth of 30.45 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

"It's interesting to see that this industry, which is on a global basis $165 billion, is still growing and doing well even in middle of a crisis, so it is a pretty rosy picture," de Eizaguirre said.

The 11th trends study was commissioned by the international wine and spirits exhibition and compiled by British-based International Wine and Spirit Research. Production trends in 28 countries and the evolution in consumption in 114 countries were analyzed.

Vinexpo, which takes place every two years, runs June 16-20 in Bordeaux, France. About 650 Canadian operators are expected to attend the event.

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