Annual Italian wine consumption last year scraped 1bn bottles last year, according to recent figures. The country's farmers' union Coldiretti said yesterday (14 March) that consumption in 2004 rose by 8m bottles against 2003.

Red wines accounted for 56% of the total with 600m bottles, while white wines accounted for 37%. The remaining 7% was made up by rose wines. Household spending on wines in 2004 rose by 3% year-on-year to €1.5bn (US$2bn), Coldiretti said.

Wine prices domestically increased by 2.3% last year, while the value of Italian wine exports grew by 3%. The sales of Italian wines in the EU were up by 2% and by 2.5% in North American markets.

Italy's exports of wines to China registered a 131% increase last year, Coldiretti added.

The value of wine exports for 2004 is expected to total €3bn, of which nearly half was generated in Europe and 25% in North America.