Wine looks set to overtake soju in South Korea, according to recent figures from the country.

In a report in Korea Times over the weekend, statistics from discount store chains in South Korea suggested that wine has leapfrogged the national spirit into the number two spot in popularity, behind beer. E-Mart was cited in the report as saying that wine sales in the first five months of 2008 hit KRW24.3bn (US$23.6m), ahead of soju sales by around KRW200m.

A spokesperson for the retailer was cited as saying: "This is the outcome of rapidly growing demand for wine of late. We expect wine to be neck and neck with beer sales sooner or later with this growth."

Wine is the only kind of liquor for which sales have been constantly on the rise over the past few years while soju sales have stagnated, E-Mart told the paper.

Late last year, the Korea Alcohol and Liquor Industry Association said that soju sales between January and July rose slightly, by 1.8% year-on-year, to 8.4m 30 360ml-bottle cases.

In 2006, Jinro maintained its dominance of the market, accounting for 52.3% of sales, with Doosan coming in second with only 9.7% market share.