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The World's Biggest Wine Drinkers 2017 (it's not where you think)

Wine. It doesn’t matter if it’s red or white, the world depends on the stuff. Beer might be cheaper and spirits might be stronger, but nothing offers the perfect balance like wine does. Wine is a drink at celebrations, a gift at dinner parties, a cooking ingredient, a conversation starter, a winter warmer. As the days get darker and the weather gets colder, a nice heady glass of red is looking more and more appealing. However, it appears some countries enjoy their wine more than others. Much more.

vineyard

We decided to revisit our Wine Consumption Study from last year to see how the world’s spending on wine has altered. In light of the recent warnings of a wine shortage in 2018, we wanted to know which countries depend on wine the most. Using updated information from the Wine Institute in combination with population statistics from the World Bank and price data from Numbeo, we’ve ranked every country in terms of wine spend per capita and put it in a lovely map.

Norfolk Island takes the crown

It turns out that Norfolk Island (where?!) has the highest wine expenditure. At only 14 square miles, this tiny island isn’t even visible on Google Maps unless you zoom in a lot. It sits to the east of Australia and a little bit north of New Zealand. Each islander spends on average over £486 each year on wine. Contrast this with last year’s biggest spender, Switzerland, who spent only £462 per capita. The Swiss have now dropped to second, although they are still Europe’s biggest wine spenders. Wine is clearly a popular (and expensive) drink with the world’s tiny exotic islands, with Bermuda, Sint Marteen and Cayman Islands also occupying the top five.

Where are the world’s biggest spenders?

If you take a look at our big infographic, you’ll see that the countries around the equator really don’t spend too much on wine. It seems there’s something about extremely hot weather and wine not going well together. The biggest wine spenders in South America, Africa and Oceania generally live at the southern end of each continent. The biggest surprise is probably Hong Kong. Across most of Asia there is a pretty strong lack of interest in wine, but in Hong Kong they appear to love the stuff. Each Hong Konger spends over £165 a year on wine, which is pretty measly by Norfolk Island’s standards, but when you consider that the next closest competitor in Southeast Asia is South Korea, spending a little over £65 per person, Hong Kongers do pretty well.

wine

Who drinks the most wine?

We also used the same data to discover which country drinks the most wine, based on bottles per capita per year, and it threw up some pretty interesting results again. Norfolk Island has another trophy to add to its cabinet! As well as spending the most money on wine, this little island also drinks the most. Each islander consumes a staggering 77.8 bottles per capita each year. Norfolk Island has taken the crown from Vatican City, who topped last year’s rankings at 75 bottles per capita. Although the papal state has upped its game slightly to 76 bottles per capita, it wasn’t enough to stop the little Australian underdog.

Wine consumption by country (top 20)

Country Bottles per capita
Norfolk Island 77.8
Vatican City 76
Andorra 66
Croatia 63.3
Portugal 61.8
Slovenia 57.5
Macedonia 55.2
France 54.4
Switzerland 50
Italy 45
Uruguay 37.7
Denmark 37.5
Austria 37
Bermuda 36.2
Sweden 35.4
Germany 33.5
Sint Marteen 33
Greece 32
Argentina 31.6
Gibraltar 30.9

Breaking traditions: Portugal out-drinks France, Italy and Spain

When you think of European wine, you think of France, Italy and Spain, right? These countries have been producing some of the world’s best plonk for centuries, and yet none of them are in the top 5 for wine consumption. After Norfolk Island and Vatican City come Andorra, Croatia and Portugal. Spain actually drinks less than half the amount of wine that is little brother drinks, consuming 28.71 bottles per capita in contrast to Portugal’s 61.79. France and Italy fare a little better, securing the 8th and 10th spots respectively, but they still don’t come close to Portugal.

Where does the United Kingdom rank?

You’re probably wondering where the UK rank. Well, it’s not as high as you might think.. At 31st, we sit below a staggering sixteen of our European neighbours. The UK likes its wine but they’re pretty measly drinkers by global standards. Perhaps they fare a little better in the beer rankings…

Wine consumption (bottles per capita per year)

Greece, the ancient home of wine

The foundations of modern Europe were built in Greece, and Greece was built on wine. It’s one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. They even made a god of wine. Fast forward to 2017, and Greece only just makes it into the world’s top 20 wine-consuming countries. Last year, it ranked 14th with each Greek drinking an average of 37 bottles per year, but this has fallen to 32, sending Greece down to 18th. The country as a whole has reduced its total wine consumption by a hefty 13%. With the rise of Portugal and the fall of Greece, it seems the old ranks are finally giving way to the new.

Africa’s wine explosion

Speaking of the new ranks, something has been going on with Africa’s recent wine consumption and its pretty exciting. Most of the continent’s countries still rank pretty low in the global table (apart from one unexpected contender, see below) but in terms of year-on-year increase in wine consumption, Africa has accelerated with blinding speed. Take a look at this:

  • Sierra Leone +68%
  • Botswana +70%
  • Gambia +78%
  • Liberia +92%
  • Mali +92%
  • Syria +98%
  • Djibouti +110%
  • Central African Republic +122%
  • Rwanda +159%
  • Comoros +205%

What’s more, most of these countries have seen rises in their populations, which makes the increases in per-person wine consumption even more impressive.

Outside of Europe: the unexpected kings of wine around the world

Europe naturally dominates the rankings, contributing 18 countries to the top 30, but once you leave Europe some pretty surprising contenders pop up. Uruguay sits just outside the top 10 and its people drink the most wine of all their South American neighbours. In Africa, Namibia takers the top spot, and it’s not even a case of fine margins. They consume nearly 27 bottles per capita, with the next highest mainland African country, Botswana, consuming only 11 bottles per capita. The strangest curveball is Georgia, that small country sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. This little nation quaffs almost 28 bottles per person each year, over two times more than Asia’s next biggest drinkers, Azerbaijan and Hong Kong, who consumes 13 and 11 bottles per capita, respectively.

Who drinks the least?

Pakistan claims the wooden spoon for wine consumption, replacing last year’s Iran as the world’s most modest wine drinkers. Each Pakistani consumes an average of 0.00011 bottles per year, which probably amounts to a small shot of wine. Other countries floundering near the bottom spot are Iran (second to last), Bangladesh, Yemen, Syria and North Korea.

In vino veritas

As they say, “there’s truth in wine”, which suggests that Norfolk Island would probably win a global honesty test, too. There are certainly a few key points for wine companies to take away from this study - namely, sell your wine to Africa!