Jan Bentzen and Valdemar Smith Traditionally, the Nordic countries have been characterized as spirits- and beer-consuming countries as these two beverages have been by far the most popular alcoholic drinks through the centuries. Wine has only been consumed in very modest quantities in these northern, climatically rather cold countries until a few decades ago. For obvious reasons wine production is not possible or efficient in the Nordic countries and this has influenced drinking behaviour. But from the 1960s wine consumption suddenly increased in all Nordic countries and during the next three decades wine has become a widespread, popular beverage – to the point of per capita consumption levels (measured in pure alcohol) surpassing those of spirits. Beer is now the most common alcoholic beverage in all five Nordic countries, but in a few years wine may well be the most popular alcoholic beverage in one or more of the Nordic countries. While the drinking patterns in the Nordic countries have evolved – or converged – towards continental European behaviour, in the wine-consuming countries of southern Europe beer has gained popularity in recent times. Hence a much more uniform pattern of alcohol consumption is seen today among Western European countries. The present chapter analyses this historical shift in the drinking behaviour in Nordic countries – that is, wine consumption becoming widespread and probably substituting for spirits and/or beer. As no wine production takes place in these countries, the focus of analysis is on the levels and patterns of wine consumption and on wine prices, imports...
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