The International Wine Market: Description and Selected Issues

Publication Date: August 2003

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Agriculture, forestry and fishing



Global trade in wine has increased rapidly during the past 25 years, steadily rising from under $1 billion in 1977 to over $7 billion in 2001. Reports of health benefits and rising global incomes have spurred increasing demand for wine, particularly in mid- to upper-income countries. In 2001, the United States was the world's leading importer, just ahead of the European Union (EU). Together, they accounted for over 60% of global imports.

The European Union has traditionally dominated global wine production and exports. However, the United States, along with several Southern Hemisphere producing countries -- Argentina, Australia, Chile, and South Africa -- are growing in importance.

Several important issues have emerged in recent years with respect to international wine trade, particularly between the EU and non-EU countries, including oenological (wine-making) practices and the use of "semi-generic" names for wines. The latter issue is encompassed under the debate on "geographical indications" at the World Trade Organization. Ongoing bilateral negotiations between the United States and the EU seek to resolve both of these issues. This report will be updated as events warrant.