The US is on course to be the world's biggest wine consumer by 2010, as consumption continues to grow ahead of the global average, according to new research.

Americans consumed 3.2% more wine in 2007 than in 2006, drinking 292m nine-litre cases, according to the Beverage Information Group's 2008 Wine Handbook. Value sales also hit a record US$27.9bn, it says.

Many market observers believe the US will overtake Old World countries to become the world's largest wine market, but there is disagreement over when.

"If wine continues to grow at these levels, the US will surpass both Italy and France to become both the largest wine market and biggest wine importer in the world by the end of the decade," Eric Schmidt, information services manager at BIG, said on 22 August.

Wine sales growth in the US remained well ahead of the global average in 2007, despite the beginnings of an economic slowdown. Worldwide wine consumption grew at just 0.5% in volume terms last year, according to figures from US-based market research body Impact Databank, owned by the parent firm of Wine Spectator magazine.

International wine body OIV, based in Paris, estimated in June that global wine consumption in 2007 had risen by just over 1% to 241m hectolitres. Data by continent was not yet available, it said.

Among the trends in the US wine market, BIG's Wine Handbook says boxed wine is "experiencing a resurgence as it's now being used for premium and super-premium wines in addition to traditional bulk wines of lesser quality". Target's Wine Cube, produced by Trinchero Family Estates, and the super-premium Black Box Wines from Constellation Wines were cited as prime examples.