By Jonathan Thomson

Figures from the Wine Development Board of Ireland show that the country's wine market has grown by 15% in the first four months of 2002, further closing the gap on beer.

Women are apparently driving growth, consuming 57% of wine sold in Ireland. Wine now accounts for over 13% of Irish alcohol sales, up 8% on 1994. Over the same period beer has weakened by 9%, but still accounts for 57% of sales.

Ireland still has some way to go before it catches up with the rest of Europe. Only half of its people drink wine compared to two-thirds in the UK, the EU country with the second lowest level of consumption.