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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).

Comments (15)

Brett Jones wrote:
05.30.10 at 9:53 PM

Statistics are always intriguing, so thank you for this post. I believe most wine consumption figures are based on details of wine imported into countries rather than actually checking the empty bottles to be recycled outside everyone's front door.
Eg. for the small islands it would depend on whether the supply ship arrived within or without a given period.
And Vatican City? They organise a lot of Eucharists with many, many visitors attending. And, of course, it befits the original founders and owners of great European vineyards to lead the way in wine consumption!

Sasha wrote:
05.31.10 at 10:23 AM

I'm assuming much of the the Vatican City consumption is sacramental, rather than just Benedict & friends dipping into the cellar regularly. For the Caribbean, I would guess that the opening of 1 or 2 resorts with extensive and ambitious wine lists would make a big difference. Perhaps someone with a good working knowledge of the world's oil markets could offer an explanation re: Nigeria.

Ed Thralls wrote:
05.31.10 at 2:03 PM

You know those guys at the Vatican put down some serious juice... of course, due to the small size of man of these "nations" skew the numbers... I think the Vatican has the highest per capita Ham Radio operators too.

I love stats, so I'll be checking out this PDF... thanks for sharing, Alder.

Ed Thralls wrote:
05.31.10 at 2:06 PM

You know those guys at the Vatican put down some serious juice... of course, due to the small size of many of these "nations" can skew the numbers... I think the Vatican has the highest per capita Ham Radio operators too.

I love stats, so I'll be checking out this PDF... thanks for sharing, Alder.

Heidi wrote:
05.31.10 at 4:10 PM

You know what Mark Twain said about statistics: "There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics." Seriously, though, I ran into the same sorts of questions and problems when trying to come up with some good numbers on the size of market in the US, for my prospectus. It was a challenge, but I erred on the conservative side and I think my analysis is good.

Bebs wrote:
05.31.10 at 7:57 PM

Your words "understandably -- can you say depressingly isolated" clearly shows you have no idea where we are!!

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.31.10 at 8:49 PM


Sorry to have offended. Please be sure I checked a map before I made that characterization, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with it. Do you have any insight into the wine consumption of your small population, given you seem to run the Trading Post there?

Cossie wrote:
06.01.10 at 1:35 AM

Hi from Norfolk Island. We are definately NOT depressingly isolated and we have a large number of tourists who buy up big & take home with them as well as drinking lots while here on holiday. That would certainly boost the consumption...

We live on a great little Island, friendly, relaxed & SAFE & quite unique! - come over and find out.

Geoff Bennett wrote:
06.02.10 at 4:54 PM

Global Per Captita Wine consumption - this article shows Norfolk Island having the second-highest per capita wine consumption after the Vatican!! I knew I came here for some reason!

Alder Yarrow wrote:
06.02.10 at 5:21 PM


Why do you folks have your priorities so straight when it comes to wine?

eleni wrote:
06.03.10 at 2:38 PM

Very interesting what you wrote here... thank you for posting

Jack wrote:
06.07.10 at 3:16 AM

Interestingly, if you look at older stats from the wine Institute they did not add the really small countries. I liked it when Luxembourg topped the list because we have a campus there. :)
Miami University
Oxford, OH

Mart S. wrote:
06.11.10 at 8:41 AM

I've heard about the Nauru island. The funny thing is that the fact they have more seagull poop than wine drops.

Mario wrote:
07.14.11 at 2:19 PM

Very interesting stats..however i am very interested to know which type of wines are being consumed per capita in each country..classing red,white, sparkling or champagne and rose..Is there any way to get these stats?

10.27.14 at 10:21 PM

I all the time used to study article in news papers but
now as I am a user of net so from now I am using net for articles, thanks to

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