Food & Drink

Wine Consumption In The World 2020 In Decline, A Detailed Look

This is the third article in our series on the status of the world wine industry in 2020. In this we cover wine consumption across the globe in 2020. Read the previous articles here: World Vineyard Plantings in 2020, and World Wine Production in 2020.

Data comes from the OIV unless otherwise noted.

Global wine consumption in 2020

The world’s wine consumption in 2020 was 234 million hectolitres (Mhl) according to OIV estimates. This marks a decline with 3% (7 Mhl) compared to 2019. It is the third year in a row that consumption decreses. It is the lowest level since 2002.

The three biggest wine consuming countries are the USA, France and Italy.

Counting per capita consumption, the three most enthusiastic wine drinkers are Portugal, Italy and France.

2020 was marked by the global crisis caused by the covid-19 virus, the worst world crisis in more than a generation. The OIV notes that the decline we see now is similar to the one we saw during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. There is one big difference though. The decline in 2020 follows on to two preceding years of decline, which was not the case when we had the financial crisis. If there really is a parallel to that crisis then we should brace ourselves for one or two more years of decline after 2020, totalling five years of shrinking consumption. That would not be good news for the wine industry.

This article on wine consumption should be read with some caution though. Wine consumption is much harder to track than production or trade. Consumption statistics are notoriously difficult to get right. In addition, China is again a big question mark, or, as the OIV says: “a notable revision in Chinese wine consumption has made China the key driver in lowering consumption levels in the last few years.”

The biggest wine consuming countries

The top ten wine consuming countries are, estimated total consumption in million hectolitres:

  1. USA 33 Mhl
  2. France 24.7 Mhl
  3. Italy 24.5 Mhl
  4. Germany 19.8 Mhl
  5. UK 13.3 Mhl
  6. China 12.4 Mhl
  7. Russia 10.3 Mhl
  8. Spain 9.6 Mhl
  9. Argentina 9.4 Mhl
  10. Australia 5.7 Mhl

The five biggest wine consuming countries gulp down half of the world’s wine (49%).

The biggest wine consuming countries, per capita

A different way of looking at this is consumption per person. The picture is, of course, very different.

Top ten countries, consumption per capita, people over 15 years of age, litres per person:

  1. Portugal 51.9 l
  2. Italy 46.6 l
  3. France 46 l
  4. Switzerland 35.7 l
  5. Austria 29.9 l
  6. Australia 27.8 l
  7. Argentina 27.6 l
  8. Germany 27.5 l
  9. Sweden 27.0 l
  10. Netherlands 24.2 l

This list excludes countries with less than 2 Mhl total consumption, eliminating some smaller countries (Luxemburg, Vatican State…).

Portugal is a long-time champion of this league. Italy and France, the two biggest wine producers, are also in the top, although they have reduced the consumption radically over the second half of the last century.

But now back to total wine consumption.

Europe: stable, and drinking more than half of all wine

The EU drank 112 Mhl of wine in 2020, stable since 2019. This is 48% of the world’s wine consumption. Add to that a few more countries: the UK, Russia and Switzerland and it adds up to 138 Mhl. This then means that Europe (not only the EU) roughly represents 59% or the world’s wine consumption.

That the consumption in the EU remained stable is mainly thanks to the Italians who increased their wine drinking with +7.5%.

Most other countries actually drank less in 2020 than in 2019.

This is perhaps surprising, considering that one often hears it said that the dreary social distancing, due to the pandemic, lead to that we drank more. Apparently not. Perhaps the explanation is that the increased wine drinking at home is more than offset by lower consumption in restaurants.

The details for the main EU countries:

  1. France: 24.7 Mhl, stable since 2019 but -7.8% from the five year average.
  2. Italy: 24.5 Mhl, a hair’s-breadth from France, thanks to an increase with 7.5%. Up 10% from the 5-yr average.
  3. Germany: 19.8 Mhl, 19.8 Mhl, +0.2%
  4. Spain: 9.6 Mhl, -6.8%
  5. Portugal: 4.6 Mhl, -0.6%
  6. Romania: 3.8 Mhl, -1.9%
  7. Netherlands: 3.5 Mhl, -0.3
  8. Belgium: 2.6 Mhl, -3.1%
  9. Austria: 2.3 Mhl, +2.2%
  10. Sweden: 2.2 Mhl, -2.3%

As for the main European countries outside the EU: the UK increased to a consumption of 13.3 Mhl, +2.2%, Russia downed 10.3 Mhl, +3%, and Switzerland drank 2.6 Mhl, -1.6%.

The USA maintained its lead as the biggest wine consumer in the world: 33.0 Mhl, which is the same amount as in 2019.

South America saw good growth numbers in the two biggest markets. Argentina reached 9.4 Mhl, the same volume as Spain, an increase with 6.5%. The populous but not quite as wine drinking Brazil consumed 4.3 Mhl, up 18.4% and the biggest volume since 2000. Chile did not manage more than 1.8 Mhl, +1.4% but a fifth lower than its five year average.

During long periods in 2020 all sales of alcohol, including wine, was banned in South Africa, so it is not surprising that consumption dropped. And drop it did, dramatically. South African wine consumption reached 3.1 Mhl, -19.4%, which is 27% under its five year average and the lowest consumption for twenty years.

Australia consumed 5.7 Mhl in 2020, a drop with 3.7% but on par with the five year average.

China’s wine consumption is estimated to 12.4 Mhl, a big drop, -17.4%. This is the third year in a row that consumption declines. Is it time to revise the view of China as “the next big market”? But it should be noted that statistics from China have a high uncertainty.

Consumption in Japan, the second biggest market in Asia, reached 3.5 Mhl, just over a quarter of how much the Chinese down, which is stable since seven years.

It would be interesting to see if the dramatic drop in some countries, notably South Africa, will have any noticeable health effects. Total wine consumption is often taken as an important measure by the anti-alcohol lobby.

Read more in our previous articles on the subject:

—Per Karlsson


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