Italian wine drinkers are drinking less but not moving away from the category altogether, data suggests.

In 2023, the country had an estimated 29.4 million wine drinkers – “stable” on 2022 – while the number of daily drinkers fell 400,000 to 11.7 million, according to analysis by the Unione Italiana Vini (UIV) Observatory, using data from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT).

While falling wine – and alcohol in general – consumption is a key concern for producers, the ISTAT data suggests the number of wine drinkers in Italy has actually increased 2% since 2011 – led by growing interest from women.

However, the UIV noted “profound signs of changing habits”, with drinkers becoming “more responsible”. “New wine drinkers” are also less category loyal, the UIV suggested, often “flirting” with other beverages such as apéritifs.

The number of non-daily drinkers now forms 60% (17.7 million people) of total wine drinkers, up from 48% in 2011.

“This is a trend that over the years gradually characterises not only the young and very young, but which is now also reflected in the older generations,” the UIV said.

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“The new ISTAT findings confirm once again the extraordinary relationship of Italians with wine: habits change, but the current approach is probably even more stimulating than the motivations of the past,” said UIV president Lamberto Frescobaldi.

“Today the demand is more linked to pleasure and sharing than to habit, and I think this is an important proof of maturity that confirms how wine is synonymous with moderation.”

Regionally, Emilia-Romagna has the highest per-capita consumption, followed by Valle d’Aosta, Tuscany and Veneto.

Italy is the third-largest wine consuming nation in the world, behind the US and France, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

Italy’s wine consumption fell 2.5% to 21.8m hectolitres in 2023, 5.8% below its five-year average.

Last year France overtook Italy to become the world’s largest wine producer, making an estimated 48m hectolitres compared to Italy’s 38.3m hectolitres (a historic low for the country and down 23.2% on 2022 levels).

Global wine consumption has been dropping gradually since 2007 and the trend is accelerating. Consumption dropped 2.6% last year to 221m hectolitres, according to the OIV’s annual report on the global wine trade in 2023. An estimated 2m hectolitres less wine was drunk in 2022 versus 2021.

The declines were led by China in 2023, which sold approximately 24.7% less wine in 2023 compared to 2022.

Speaking to Just Drinks earlier this year, industry experts said a lack of branding could be behind falling global wine consumption.

Laurent Delauney, owner of Delaunay Vins et Domaines wine group in France, argued the appellation-focused business model has lost the country 14% of its global market share in the last two decades.