In a watershed for the global wine industry, the U.S. overtook Italy in 2011 to become the largest single still light wine market. According to the IWSR, still light wine sales in the U.S. reached 300.6m cases in 2011, a rise of 4.2 percent over 2010. Meanwhile, the Italian market declined by 1.2 percent to 297.3m cases. France also continued its long-term decline, falling by 0.8 percent to 271.6m cases.

In the U.S., local wines increased by 5.1 percent to 221m cases, whereas imports increased by 1.9 percent to 82.1m cases. Within that, demand for moscato and sweet red wines soared in 2011. This demand has been met mainly by local brands and Italian wines. Old World wines in general have done well with rises for Italy (+9.1 percent), France (+5.4 percent) and Spain (+8.7 percent). Meanwhile, unfavorable exchange rates have dampened demand for wines from Chile (-4.4 percent) and Argentina (+0.5 percent). Australian wines (-7 percent) continue to struggle in face of a raft of local brands priced at a similar level and as consumers experiment with other brands from other countries.

There has been a significant increase in imports of bulk wine used for local blending and for sourcing cheap varietals for mainstream brands. There has also been a marked rise in new brands coming to the market.

There is scope for further growth in the U.S. Per capita consumption is low compared with most major wine consuming countries at just 12.1 liters per annum. Demographics are also favorable, with an estimated 3.5m Americans reaching legal drinking age annually, while there is also more frequent usage and wider geographic take-up. The IWSR forecasts that the U.S. still light wine market will reach 322m cases by 2015.