Americans drinking more wine and the French drinking less meant the United States last year overtook France for the first time.
The US is now the world’s top market for wine, though the French still drink more per capita with weekly consumption around six times the American average.
The figures come from the International Wine and Vine organisation, which said worldwide consumption dropped slightly last year.
US drinkers bought 29.1 million hectolitres of wine last yearup half a percent from 2012.
French consumption fell nearly seven percent to 28.1 million hectolitres.
Of the top four, Italians drank less wine, with consumption falling to 21.7 million hectolitres while in Germany consumption rose slightly to 20.3 million hectolitres.
Britain’s consumption was very slightly lower from the previous year at 12.7 million hectolitres.
California winemaker Antony Riboli, from the San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles, believes the increase reflects the fact that Americans are now less intimidated by wine.
Riboli said: “In the past, I think wine was very much high end, very expensive, that was the connotation. Now I think you’re seeing people saying, ‘Hey I can get a great bottle of wine for under $20 or under $15,’ or a glass of wine at dinner. Those are the changing trends in the industry and I think those trends are here to stay. People are embracing wine as a national beverage.”
The United States was the top importer in terms of value of wines last year.
Worldwide, less wine was produced in 2012 and exports last year fell by 2.2 percent, but producers were able to charge more and the value of that trade was up by 1.5 percent.
In a big disappointment for the industry the Chinese – who have increased their consumption rapidly from the turn of the century – seem to be losing their taste for wine.
Sales in China fell by 3.8 percent last year compared with 2012.