The 11 Countries That Consume The Most Wine

Group of people drinking wine at home

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Read the original post at Snooth.This should have been a simple task. After all, the numbers I’m using come from The Wine Institute‘s annual tally of wine consumption, this time for the vintage of 2010. So it’s just a simple list, right?

Well, yes and no. No, because it doesn’t seem that this is as definitive of a list as the folks putting it together might have us believe. I have found two additional sources of information coming from the World Health organisation and the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin that contradict some of the information contained in The Wine Institute’s list. Rather than try to reconcile what must be some quirks of accounting, I’m just running with what I’ve got.

So here’s a list that is commonly referred to as a countdown of wine consumption among countries, which is patently false since this is actually based on wine purchased rather than consumed, another reason to take these surveys with a grain of salt. That and the fact that while many of the countries seem to jump around a trend line over the years, others seem to exhibit changes of 25 per cent or more from 2007 through 2011. Maybe it’s the Bordeaux Futures programs or all of those magnums of 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape that swung the market.

In any event, join me as we count down the 11 top purchasers of wine in 2010. Why 11? Mainly because I couldn’t resist including Andorra!

#11 Andorra — 33.84 litres pp

#10 Slovenia — 36.40 litres pp

It's a bit surprising to find Slovenia so low on this list. Sharing borders with Italy and Austria, Slovenia has a long history of wine production and a decidedly advanced lifestyle that would seem to support a bit more vigorous consumption of the juice of the grape.

Slovenia is also a popular tourist destination, though it pales in comparison with Andorra as far as numbers go. The Alps, Prealps and wine-producing regions around the city of Maribor all are particularly popular with fellow European travellers.

#9 Denmark — 35.09 litres pp

The Danes are well known as enthusiastic drinkers, and the fact that their wine purchases increased by over 27 per cent between 2007 and 2011 certainly supports that impression.

It's cold in Denmark and winters are long, which helps to keep the wine flowing. But you have to think about how much of Denmark's wine consumption is altered by what goes on in the Faroe Islands and Greenland -- both integral parts of the Kingdom of Denmark. I'll have to look into that, but I'm betting the folks on the continent have a wee bit higher rate of consumption than those living thousands of kilometers by sea from the world's best vineyards.

#8 Turks & Caicos — 37.88 litres pp

I know, I didn't believe it either, but there they are. The Turks & Caicos, those British islands in the Caribbean. While the landmass of these archipelagos might be just a few square kilometers smaller than that of Andorra, its population is barely more than half at 45,000 people. Add in several hundred thousand tourists a year and something still doesn't seem to add up here.

Purchases on the islands have risen almost 25 per cent since 2007. Maybe the island just had to restock its bar or something, because on the face of it, there is no reason Turks & Caicos should be making this list. I think it's time for some investigative journalism!

#7 Switzerland — 38.20 litres pp

Yes, tourism and big money are the keys to Switzerland's success. That and neutrality of course.

The Swiss lie in the centre of Europe, surrounded by the best vineyards on earth all virtually within a day's travel. You would think with so many treasures at their doorstep that they would indulge a bit more. Is it that Swiss sense of composure we're seeing in these figures? Or their frugality? I wonder how much wine got trucked back in the trunks of Swiss vehicles from, say, Brunello, Beaune and Bordeaux and was missed by this census?

#6 Portugal — 41.81 litres pp

Portugal is like the lost European wine country. It's peppered with vineyards and the wines are fabulous, whether we're talking about a light little Vinho Verde or something substantial from Oporto.

With so many wines to choose from and a cuisine that draws on the best of land and the county's extensive coast, it's not surprising that wine continues to play an important role in the Portuguese lifestyle.

Incidentally, while Italy consumes more wine per person than Portugal, the Portuguese consume more alcohol per person from wine. They consume 6.65 litres of alcohol from wine as opposed to the Italians' 6.38. With all that Port and Madeira, it's easy to see why.

#5 Italy — 42.15 litres pp

That brings us to Italy, once the world's wine consumption leader with every person of age averaging some 70 plus litres per year. Prosperity, modernization and drunk driving laws have all conspired to push that down to a still-impressive level. Of course, tourism (some 43 million plus visitors a year) is a big part of Italy's economy, so one would think that is taken into account here. This leaves me thinking that maybe everything is not as it seems here.

Could the Italians be supplementing their purchases with some that are not being properly tracked? I'd be shocked, shocked I tell you! How could that possibly happen in the world's number one wine producing country?

#4 France — 45.70 litres pp

France and Italy have historically swapped the various titles of world's largest producer or consumer of wine over the years. But as of late, the French seem to be edging out their southern neighbour in the consumption end of things.

France is what pops to mind when you think of fine wine. The famous names are endless, coming from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, the Rhone and Champagne. There is no other country with so many wines that serve as global benchmarks.

One would think that pride plays a small but significant role in France's robust consumption, and even though purchases of wines have drifted lower, they remain the top purchasers in Europe, with a few small exceptions.

#3 Luxembourg — 52.46 litres pp

Like Luxembourg, for example. Half a million people call Luxembourg -- the country strategically placed between France, Belgium and Germany -- home. This is a banking capital of Europe with the highest per capita income in the world, so not only are they drinking a lot, they are probably drinking a lot better than you or me!

This makes one think that maybe not all of the wine sold in Luxembourg gets consumed in Luxembourg. Could this be a case of illegal imports by visiting neighbours? More investigation is required. I volunteer for the tour of European micro-nations.

#2 Norfolk Island — 54.50 litres pp

This might be our weirdest entry on the list, but don't hold your breath. Norfolk Island isn't even a country -- it's part of Australia. You really have to wonder why an island of 36 square miles and 2,300 inhabitants would even be on this list, but then you see the numbers that count.

Yes, according to The Wine Institute, Norfolk Islanders are buying almost 55 litres of wine a year, and it's not like visitors and hoards of tourists are pumping up those figures!

I worked it out and it looks like some 14,000 cases of wine are heading to Norfolk Island annually. That's an awful lot of wine for 2,300 people, some 16 per cent of whom are under the age of 14. Anyone know the drinking age on Norfolk Island?

#1 Vatican City — 54.78 litres pp

To be honest I'm not sure if I made this 11 countries so that I could include Andorra, or so I could include Vatican City. I mean, it's just a city, right? 109 square acres of Rome, more than half of it gardens, and home to about 832 people. This makes the inclusion of Norfolk Island seem entirely rational.

You have to wonder if the 2,400 Italians who come to work every day in Vatican City skew these figures. It's not that the consumption figures are really that high, it's just, well, weird. Maybe there's a lot of sacramental wine being used as well?

Countries that just missed the list

As a little bonus, a few additional countries which make some lists for the top 11 wine consuming nations:

Croatia is fifth on some lists, Hungary ninth, Moldova tenth and Argentina eleventh.

I'm not sure why these folks didn't make The Wine Institute's list, though I will note that both Hungary and Argentina saw recent consumption figures fall by 29 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, which may account for the inclusion in an earlier list.

The big surprise in all of this? Spain. Where is Spain? Down in sixteenth place with 26.16 litres pp, down some 20 per cent over the past four years. Don't worry Spain, I'm coming to do my share!

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