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Fun With Wine Consumption Statistics

I was poking around in some of the statistics offered by the Wine Institute earlier today looking for global per capita wine consumption. I found the numbers for 2004-2008 and was quite surprised by some of them.

If I were I an investigative journalist with a lot of time on my hands, or a behavioral economist with a fast command of world trade facts, I might be able to answer the question "why?" for each of the following. But I've got other things to do, so I'll just ply you with trivia and hope you win $50 from a friend the next time you're all sitting around at a wine bar.

The country with the highest per-capita wine consumption in the world is.... wait for it.... the city/state/country of Vatican City. The Pope and his boys (all 931 of them) drink 66.67 liters of wine per capita per year. Of course, that's only about a bottle every four days, which among my friends isn't nearly enough. But way to go Catholic church. I'd pay good money for the chance to explore their wine cellar for an afternoon. The second highest country is little Norfolk Island out in the middle of nowhere South Pacific, whose 1,828 residents (understandably -- can you say depressingly isolated?) drink more than the average French citizen.

There are more than twenty countries in the world who register effectively zero wine consumption per-capita per year, including North Korea (I guess our dear leader 's personal stocks of Bordeaux don't count) and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The country with the greatest jump in wine consumption per capita between 2004 and 2008 was Nigeria, with a jump of 1236.2% to .33 liters consumed on average. Anyone care to explain that? It was followed closely by Macau, whose consumption per capita jumped almost 690%.

The country with the greatest drop in wine consumption was again a little island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, Nauru. Perhaps they lost their wine distributor? But the 13,287 residents saw an 88% drop in per capita consumption between 2004 and 2008. The 574 residents of the Cocos Islands likewise saw a 75.6% drop. And poor Burundi, sandwiched between The Congo and Tanzania drank 73% less wine per capita in 2008 than 2004, though it's not clear whether this figure was skewed by the huge influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in the Congo, and clearly had better things to worry about than drinking wine.

Other interesting trends: more mainstream tropical paradises saw huge gains in wine consumption per capita over the four years, with the Antilles, St. Kitts, Turks and Caicos, and St. Vincent all posting 100% or greater gains. The middle east, especially Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates also posted huge gains, as well as a number of poor or unstable African countries like Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Malawi, whose leaders are probably spending more on wine than on some basic social services.

At the highest level, there are far more countries where wine consumption is rising than the opposite, and global consumption between 2004 and 2008 rose 3.5%. And that is most certainly a good thing.

If you're curious, take a look at the stats yourself (PDF).

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.