Britain has become the world’s largest importer of wine, according to new figures from show organiser VinExpo.

Wine imports surged to 1.6 billion bottles in 2007 – or 35 bottles per adult – placing Britain ahead of Germany as the world’s leading importer for the first time.

The research claims the amount of wine drunk by Britons increased by 12% between 2003 and 2007 and is tipped to grow by a further 6% over the next five years.

While sales of red wine are forecast to drop from 720 million bottles in 2008 to 687 million in 2012, white wine (764 million bottles last year) and rose (70 million) are both tipped to show significant growth.

The data also showed sales of vodka had risen by a third (33%) over the past five years to overtake Scotch whisky as the country’s most popular spirit, due in part to increased popularity among younger drinkers. Sales of vodka now total 96.5 million bottles a year.

“The main factors driving UK vodka sales have been the youth market, which is heavily into mixers like Coke, Red Bull and orange juice, and the huge influx of central and European migrants, who enjoy vodka,” a spokesman for VinExpo said.

Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard has announced a boost in like-for-like sales of around 5% for the past six months. The French spirits giant said growth had been strong in emerging markets including China, India and eastern Europe but admitted US sales had suffered as retailers cut back on their stocks.

The group, which last year acquired Absolut vodka in a deal worth up to £4bn, expects profits to grow by around 8% for the period and will publish detailed figures of its first-half performance in March.