Did we drink more wine in 2020?

Pau Roca, head of the OIV (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin), recently presented the 2020 figures for global wine consumption and exports. Whilst better than predicted, the results are far from brilliant. So what can we hope for in the year to come?

A drop in global wine consumption

On the 20th of April 2021, Pau Roca announced from the Paris seat of the Organisation Nationale de la Vigne et du Vin that global wine consumption dropped by 3% in the course of 2020, its lowest level since the year 2002. The 2020 figures amount to 234 million hectolitres consumed, which is 7 million hectolitres less than the previous year. Trends vary, of course, from country to country, with wine consumption in the US, France, and Germany staying stable. Brazilians and Italians tended to drink more last year, whilst fewer bottles of wine were uncorked in China and South Africa.

Why has this happened? The pandemic, of course, has its role to play in this, though the wine market has resisted relatively well in all, especially when compared to other consumer products. Another underlying factor is China’s wine consumption figures, as these have been steadily decreasing over the past four years; according to Pau Roca, the potential of this huge market was greatly overestimated. China has dropped to sixth place as a wine consumer country, and wine imports have dropped by 30% (partly due to extensive viticulture developing within the country), without forgetting that taxes also increased there, notably for Australian wines. Similarly, the taxes placed on European wines being shipped into the US had a considerable impact. The OIV has been analysing different consumer behaviours in relation to the pandemic. With enthusiasts unable to enjoy a glass in cafés, hotels, and restaurants for the majority of 2020, various trends emerged: much more wine was bought at the supermarket and online, the money spent on an average bottle dropped somewhat, and champagne was overtaken by other kinds of wine as festive gatherings became few and far between.

Exports down, especially in value

In terms of exports, the OIV notes that the global market has dropped very slightly in volume (-1.7% to 105.8 million hectolitres in 2020), and more in value (-6.7% to 29.6 billion euros, a figure that had been increasing for a decade). Last October, the OIV was expecting a 10% drop in the volume of wine sold worldwide for 2020, and whilst this fear was not unfounded, it is fortunate to see that the results aren’t quite so catastrophic. Even a pandemic has not been enough to halt the globalisation of the wine market, as 45% of the bottles consumed in the world had crossed at least one border in 2020. Once more, it’s sparkling wine that has drawn the short straw, with exports of fizz dropping by 5% in volume an 15% in value. The most impacted countries are Germany, France (which, despite its 10.8% drop in exports, remains the world’s top wine exporter), the US, and Chile.

Hope on the horizon?

Reaching a crucial crossroads in the market’s evolution, Pau Roca has an optimistic outlook, noting that the figures from the second half of 2020 were looking more encouraging, opening up space to rethink the predictions of early 2021. As for concerns around the Chinese market, Roca reminds us that “China isn’t the whole of Asia”, taking account of the promise present across the rest of the continent. The development of the vaccine and the consequent reopening of bars and restaurants will likely be a green light to once again embrace convivial moments around a glass of wine, so a tentatively hopeful outlook for the drinks business is to be encouraged.

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