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Top 10 wine consuming countries

Still light wine consumption across the world is expected to grow well into 2014, but will the traditional countries head the table in two years time?

A typical wine tasting

Italy was the top still light wine consuming country in 2010, however the balance is shifting.

Statistics on still light wine drinking are a solid indicator for future trends, as it is the key market segment.

In 2009 still light wines accounted for 92.6% of all wine consumed, and between 2010 and 2014 that figure will rise by 72.9 million 9-litre cases, or 3.0%.

But nearly three quarters of this growth, 73.4%, will come from three markets: the US, China and Russia.

Predicted totals for 2014 by Vinexpo show any decline will primarily be in Europe, with other regions staying about the same or increasingly slightly.

In terms of overall wine consumption the US edged ahead of Italy and France to become the world’s largest wine market by volume.

Last year consumption reached 311.3 million 9-liter cases, equivalent to 3.735 billion bottles.

And it is still growing – Vinexpo forecasts indicate that US wine consumption should continue to grow by 10% in the next two years.

China is now the world’s fastest growing wine consumption market.

In just one year between 2009 and 2010, wine consumption, including still, light and sparkling wines grew by 33.4% in China, Hong Kong included. Chinese consumption reached 156.19 million 9-liter cases in 2011, putting China in fifth place in the top five wine-consuming nations worldwide, ahead of the UK.

A representation of Wine consumption by month
In terms of still light wine consumption, though, they are not expected to catch the UK in fifth place by 2014, although their consumption will still rise by nearly 20%.

Over the following pages, using Vinexpo data, we have collerated the top 10 still light wine-consuming countries (vol, million 9l cases). The data results are based on drinks below 15% alcohol and does not include sparkling wines.

Wines and spirits exhibition organiser Vinexpo, in collaboration with research group The IWSR released the study (2009–2014) which gathers data from 28 producer countries and 114 markets where wines are consumed.

1. US

US wine

Lifted by its larger population and an interest in wine-and-cheese culture among young Americans, the US tops the 2014 leader board ahead of Italy.

American’s are beginning to broaden their wine palette. The fastest-growing varieties drank by the US public last year were Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, which all rose more than 9%. Wines from Argentina and New Zealand are also becoming firm favourites in the states as the import market they had the biggest gains, at more than 24%.

The Vinexpo five-year forecasts indicate that US wine consumption should continue to grow by nearly 10% between 2010 and 2014.

In terms of still light wine, by 2014 the US is expected to have reached 315 million 9-litre cases , a rise of 9.35%.

2. Italy

Italian wine

By 2014, Italy is expected to have dropped to second on the list of the world’s top stil light wine consuming country.

The yearly per capita rate of alcohol consumption has long been declining, but family expenditures on alcohol is still around 2% of the family budget.

Studies have shown that Italians under the age of 35 are drinking fewer bottles of vino than ever before.

While 69% of Italians over 65 drink wine every day, that number drops to a mere 13% for Italians under 35.

The cost of wine is a factor in their decision to drink less, but 50% of Italian consumers spend less than €3 on their table wine.

The Vinexpo statistics predict a drop of 0.84% change from 2010 to 2014, with a total wine consumption of 294 million 9-litre cases.

Wine is still big business in Italy, as Italian wine exports are worth more than the country’s automotive ones. While Disney’s Epcot theme park is set to open a Italian-themed wine bar in early May.

3.  France 

French bread and red wine

They are one of the three key traditional markets, but consumption of still light wines is falling in France and by 2014 Vinexpo expect it to have fallen by another 4%.

The downward trend can be traced back to 2008 when French adults on average each consumed 43l of wine, representing the equivalent of one glass per day, down by four litres from 2007.

Wine consumption has dropped across all social groups, most markedly among middle-income earners.

It’s been called France’s wine crisis: La crise viticole.

That maybe be a little overdramatic as France still top the most popular wine nation in 2011, according to a Berry Bros & Rudd end of year report.

4. Germany

German wine cellar

The Germans are set to stay in fourth place on the still light wine consumption table for 2014, with a total projected to be 241 million. This is a 0.38% rise from their 2010 total, but they are still over 20,000 from third place.

Riesling is still the favourite wine to be drunk in Germany , but Pinot Noir, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are all well liked as well.

In all, there was a turnover of 16.9 million hectoliters of domestic and foreign still wines. During the past decade, annual wine consumption has increased by 2.5 liters per person.

Another misunderstanding is compounded by the complex, confusing system for designation and labelling of quality German wine – or Pradikatswein. German producers are trying to turn this around and the UK will host its first ever Riesling Summit this June, organised by Wines of Germany.

Similarly Germany’s Pinot Noir producers are increasingly focused on their potential to produce world-beating red wines.

 5. UK

Empty wine bottles

In the UK, figures show a predicted 4.13% decline in consumption and a per capita drop from 26 litres per year to 24 litres in the next five years as consumers “drink better and less”.

The UK became the biggest importer of still light wine by volume in 2007 when imports reached 135.8 million 9-litre cases, equivalent to more than 1.6 billion bottles. (One case = 12 x 75cl bottles).

White wine is most popular in the UK with rosé wine rising fast and red wine falling back.

In terms of improving their world position the UK needs to adopt a longer term buying approach if it is to retain a reliable supply of wine in the face of rising global consumption.

6. China

Deputy general manager for Torres in China, Damien Shee

This could be a false position for the thirsty Chinese as their growth continues to rise and rise, as it is hard to predict when it will stop.

Within three years, greater China will spend more money on wines than the UK, and become the world’s second biggest wine consumer by value, after the US. In terms of still wine consumption, though, they are expected to be behind the UK in the list.

Between 2010 and 2014, the Vinexpo study expects Chinese still light wine consumption to grow by a further 19.6%, reaching 127 million 9-litre cases by the end of the period. At that point, China will be the 6th largest wine consuming country in the world.

Total Chinese wine consumption reached 96.33 million 9-litre cases, equivalent to 1.156 billion bottles, in 2009, an increase of 104% compared to 2005.

“When this level of consumption per inhabitant is compared with the per capita rates of the other top 10 large consumer countries, the extraordinary potential of the Chinese market becomes clear”, Robert Beynat, the Chief Executive of Vinexpo, has pointed out.

7. Argentina

Viñedos de Mendoza

With China expected to move up a place, Argentina falls to seventh on the top 10 chart of still light wine consuming countries.

Their declined is nearly 5.5%, which is a worrying amount if they ever want to catch the rampant Chinese.

Wine consumption is taking a hit in the country across the board as total bottled wine export volume (excluding bulk) fell 3.1% to 20.8 million nine-liter cases in 2011, while shipment volume to the US—the category’s leading export market—grew by only 2% to just over 7 million cases.

Advice from one of the country’s top producers is that Argentina needs to start focusing more on its white wines. 

8. Spain

Spanish deli

Spanish still light wine consumption is predicted to fall by 5% by 2012, but they will still hold onto eight place in the table. This is a continuation of a worrying trend for the country, as between 2005 and 2009 the levels have dropped by 14.81%.

Spain has struggled economically and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the European Union. Many consumers have switched to cheaper wines and staying home more, while a new generation finds that it can imagine eating without wine.

The decline has been occurring for a long time and in terms of overall wine consumption, Spain used to be as high as 70 liters per person per year, now it’s around 20 liters per person per year.

One piece of good news is that UK buyers are embracing wines from Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra in the search for new Spanish whites from Galicia.

9. Russia


Russian's traditionally drink spirits

The Russians are set to increase their still light wine consumption by 2014, as Vinexpo are expecting it to rise by over 9%. It will mean they are bridging the gap to eight placed Spain, since between 2005 and 2009 they made nearly a 50% leap in consumption.

Historically, Russia has a culture of drinking spirits rather than wine and this may prevent them from ever moving up the table, but they are a region to keep an eye on. In terms of vineyard investment though, Russia didn’t make our top 10 regions. 

Russia is an important wine country as it produces considerable amounts of wine but the domestic consumption industry is just a shadow of what it was 30 years ago.

Gorbachev’s 1980s anti-alcohol campaign and the Russian legal and administrative systems make it difficult to bring wines into the country and to assure payment. 

10. Romania


Romanian wine tasting

The forecast is optimistic for Romanian still light wine consumption ahead of 2014.

Vinexpo expect a 2.81% rise from 2010 to 2014 to match the 2.82% rise from 2005 to 2009.

Romania has a population of 21.4 million and this is expected to stay at this level in 2014.

The wine industry has had to navigate the impressive growth of beer consumption and reduced beer excises, which were responsible for the greater drop in wine sales in 1998-2001. It has improved since 2001 and table-wine dominates total still light wine consumption. White wine prevails in the Romanian consumers’ preferences holding 68.6% of the total market, followed by red wine with 31.4%.

There is a promising market for expensive wines. Romanian people are starting to appreciate quality wines and are tending to become more like foreign wine drinkers. Consumption of strong alcohol has decreased in favour of wine and beer. The brewery market is worth 600 million euros and annual consumption has increased to 70 litres per person.

Romania has also made some progress in the UK as the Wine Society has listed two wines from the Prince Stirbey winery – the first Romanian wines for 50 years. It means that Romanian Winegrowers will expand distribution across the UK with new listings from The Wine Society, Waitrose and other stores.

“It’s an exciting time for the Romanian Winegrowers and we’re looking forward to rolling out our 2012 campaign, which will see us in the UK for a number of events, including the LIWF,” said Jakob Kripp, owner of Stirbey winery.

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