Wine sales could grow by over 15% from £6bn in 2003 to £7bn in 2008, according to a new report by market analyst Datamonitor.

The report puts this potential rise in wine consumption down to a change in habits, as more people are opting to drink wine at home or in restaurants rather than a beer in the pub. This is particularly true for women, who account for more than half of wine consumption.

Britons still do not drink as much wine as the French or Italians but both countries are drinking slightly less than they were in 1998, while consumption in Britain has grown from 14 litres a head to 17 litres in 2003. It is forecast to reach 19.3 litres a head in 2008.

Alcohol consumption for women has increased in general with a growth of 27% between 1998 and 2003, and wine has always been a popular choice of drink for women.

“It has traditionally been socially unacceptable for men to order wine in pubs and bars, whereas it has been considered acceptable, even expected, for women,” said John Band, drinks market analysts got Datamonitor. “This attitude is declining, but it is not dead yet, so the rise in female alcohol consumption has played an important part in making wine more popular,”