12/07/2012 13:18 EST | Updated 02/06/2013 05:12 EST

Booze sales on track to break record

Sales of wine, beer and other liquor are on pace to hit a record high this holiday season, predicts a report from one of Canada's biggest banks.

Bank of Montreal said Friday that booze sales rose by $500 million, or more than 3.6 per cent, in the first nine months of the year.

"If this healthy growth holds up through the holiday season, that would set the stage for record retail sales of more than $19 billion in 2012," CMO Capital Markets economist Aaron Goertzen said.

Alcohol sales typically spike in December by about 40 per cent above the levels seen in other months, the bank says. That compares with a 15 to 20 per cent bump across other retail sectors.

Wine sales rise

Across provinces, Quebecers spend the most, with their monthly budget for alcohol increasing 65 per cent in December. Ontario's gain is in line with the national average, whereas B.C. sees a slightly smaller than average bump of about 30 per cent.

Last year, the average Canadian adult spent $85 on booze in December. The bank says about one-third of that went to Canadian wineries, which is a boon for that growing industry.

Increasingly, wine is becoming the drink of choice in Canada.

In 1995, the average Canadian bought 13 bottles of wine per year. By 2011, that number had jumped to 23, about an 11 per cent increase, per year, over more than a decade.

On the other end of the spectrum, traditional Canadian brewers are facing more challenges.

Since the 1990s, imports have tripled their market share in both Canada and the U.S., and domestic craft brewers have doubled production since 2003.