• Australia’s average beer consumption has fallen by 25 per cent since late 1999
  • Wine consumption per litre went up eight per cent while spirits rose 14 per cent
  • Official figures showed wine almost overtaking beer share of alcohol consumed
  • Beer is now 39 per cent of alcohol market compared with 38.6 per cent for wine

Australia is not the beer-swilling nation it once was, with wine set to overtake the amber liquid as the most popular alcoholic beverage.

During the 1970s, beer made up more than two-thirds of the alcohol downed in Australia.

That has been slowly changing, with wine about to overtake beer as Australia’s most popular alcoholic beverage if existing trends continue, official data showed.

In 1979, beer represented 67.6 per cent of pure alcohol consumed in Australia, compared with 18.6 per cent for wine.

Almost 40 years later, beer remained the most popular alcoholic drink, but only just.

It had a 39 per cent share of all pure alcohol consumed in 2017-18, putting it only marginally ahead of wine’s 38.6 per cent share.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics defined ‘pure alcohol’ as a standard drink containing 12.5ml of pure alcohol.

By volume of liquid, significantly more beer is consumed compared to wine but its lower alcohol percentage accounts for that small and shrinking differential in the amount of alcohol consumed via beer than via wine.

Between 1999 and last year, the annual average volume of beer drunk by the average Australian plunged by 25.5 per cent to 87.6 litres per capita.

Meanwhile, the volume of wine consumed rose by eight per cent to 28.3 litres on average, with drinkers no longer required to keep them in the cellar for so long.

Spirits had an even bigger increase, rising by 13.9 per cent to 1.89 litres for every individual, when analysed for pure alcohol content.

The ABS did not have data on spirit volumes, as it did for beer and wine.

Veteran wine critic John Fordham, who still also drinks beer, said wine’s popularity was due to it being complementary to eating.

‘Wine with food. Full stop,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Monday.

‘I move around in hospitality circles pretty often and from my observance, even in pubs now, a lot of people who go to licensed premises are drinking wine.’

While Rose is the fastest growing style of wine, Sauvignon Blanc continues to be the most popular white wine in Australia, thanks to the popularity of New Zealand imports from the South Island’s Malborough region.

‘The Australian marketplace has been flooded for the past 10 to 15 years with Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand which has prompted producers in Australia to match that so they’re able to get an adequate share of the market,’ Mr Fordham said.

Shiraz is the most popular red wine, with its popularity increasing thanks to faster maturation.

‘The red wines are being made to be able to access and drink much earlier than say 15, 20 years ago,’ Mr Fordham said.

Previously, red wines required more time in the cellar or the wine rack ‘to make them more palatable and easy to drink’.

‘That is not the case now,’ Mr Fordham said.

‘Winemakers in Australia are making red wines ready to drink now.’