Lies, Damned Lies and Wine Statistics

POSTED ON 06/03/2016

Look away now if you’re allergic to statistics because there’s a danger that the OIV’s 2015 statistical report on World Vitiviniculture will send you into a deep slumber the like of which you may not have enjoyed since that TV documentary on Katy Perry. Come to think of it, this deconstruction of the latest production and consumption figures for vines, grapes and wine could be the answer to the insomniac’s prayer. For wine geeks like me however, and perhaps even a few of our readers, the report of the International Organisation of Wine and Vine makes compelling reading.

So you’re at a dinner party of wine writers, Masters of Wine, wine bloggers, wine students and wine merchants (I know, this is not sounding promising). Master of Wine sitting opposite you asserts that Italy is the biggest wine producer followed by France and therefore they have the greatest number of vineyards, respectively. ‘Stands to reason, doesn’t it’, and everyone around the table nods in reverent respect . Except you, because having absorbed the wine world according to the OIV, you know that the country with the biggest area under vine is in fact Spain at 1,038 million hectares, followed by China, at 799 million hectares.

Respect! Suddenly all eyes are on you and now is your chance to shine. ‘I didn’t know that China was the world’s second largest wine producer’, says Wine Student. ‘It isn’t’, you respond, ‘because only 14 per cent of China’s total vineyard area is devoted to wine grapes. In fact the largest wine grape production comes from France followed by Italy and then Spain. And this is reflected’, you continue, ‘in the world wine production figures, which show that France was top (in 2014) with 46.7 million hectolitres of wine, followed by Italy (44.7 million) Spain (38.2 million), USA (22.3 million) and in fifth place Argentina (15.2 million)’. ‘So where does that leave China then’, asks Wine Merchant? ‘China is ninth', you reply authoritatively, ‘producing 11.2 million hectolitres of wine’, adding gratuitously, ‘and most of it’s rubbish’.

By now, the table is all ears, as it were, and you warm to the theme. ‘Yes, 80 per cent of the world’s wine production of 270 million hectolitres is in fact produced by only 10 countries, the remaining four in the top 10 being Australia, South Africa, Chile and Germany. In that order’, you add for good measure. By now the Aldi Exquisite Collection Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is working its magic and the spirited dinner party conversation turns to how the world wine consumption cake divides up. ‘I think that the Vatican City has the largest wine consumption per capita, no?’ claims Wine Blogger, smugly. At this point you have to introduce the ‘lies, damned lies and statistics argument’ because unfortunately the OIV has omitted to mention per capita consumption, only volume consumption by country.

To everyone’s delight and surprise, you save the day, continuing, as you clear your throat theatrically, ‘I can tell you however that the USA is the largest consumer of wine at 31 million hectolitres, which (doing some nifty mental arithmetic) is the equivalent of 344 million cases of wine. Next in line is France at 28 million, then Italy (20 million), Germany (20 million) and China is in the fifth place at 16 million. ‘And what about us here in the UK’, enquires Wine Guzzler? ‘surely we drink our fair share, I know I do’. Well, yes actually we all do’, you respond. ‘We’re in sixth place and we drink 13 million hectolitres, which is the equivalent of 144 million cases of wine’. The assembled company notches up another contribution to the statistics by cracking open a Tokaji Furmint from the Lidl Easter Wine Collection.

The Wine Gang

6 March 2016

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