Within the European Community (EC) drinking patterns in the southern countries can be characterised by daily consumption of wine at meals, and in the northern countries by less frequent consumption of beer outside meals. Yet, as in past decades in the southern countries beer consumption and in the northern countries wine consumption strongly increased, the question is whether the distinction in drinking patterns still applies. This paper (1) describes for each country of the EC total alcohol consumption, (2) examines the frequency and the context of consumption of the new beverage type and (3) analyses whether subpopulations, defined by sex, age and educational level, differ in the adoption of the new beverage type. In all countries wine is consumed more often at meals compared to beer. Older people consume wine in greater numbers and more frequently than younger people, who consume beer in greater numbers. People of higher educational level consume the new beverage type more often compared to people of lower educational level, who consume the traditional beverage type more frequently. Finally, males and females differ less in the frequency of consumption of the new beverage type than in the frequency of the traditional beverage type.