national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, September 7, 2009


A look at consumption of wine around the world.

South Africa is the seventh biggest producer of wine in the world, but as wine drinkers we rank only 30th. This information is part of the recently released 2009 annual report of the South African Wine Industry, an organisation based in Paarl. Most of the figures are dated to the end of 2008.

The global wine production figures are a little older, presumably because it is difficult to gather and analyse the statistics. At the end of 2006, France was the world’s biggest wine producer by some distance - 5 340 million litres in the year compared with 4,811 million from Italy and 3,010 million from Spain. After that came the United States, Argentina, Australia and then South Africa with 1,013 million litres.

In wine consumption, the French were way ahead of the rest with an imposing 54 litres per head during the year. The other big wine drinkers were Italy (48 litres), Portugal (47 litres) and, interestingly, Croatia (42 litres).

South Africa was 30th, with a per capita consumption of 7,5 litres, only one-third that of Australia.

We are still a nation of beer-drinkers. The market for alcoholic drinks is measured on the basis of alcohol content, and last year beer accounted for 43,5 percent of all sales. African traditional beer made up 24 percent, wine 11.4 percent, brandy 6 percent, other South African spirits 4 percent and whisky 3,3 percent.

The figures have changed very little over the past 17 years. In 1992 the total per capita consumption in South Africa of table wine, fortified wine and sparkling wine was 345 million litres. In 2008 it was 356 million litres. In the same period total consumption of spirits (brandy, cane, gin, etc) increased fractionally, from 31,26 million litres to 31,49 million litres.

The world champion drinkers of distilled products --- spirits, in their case vodka --- are the Russians, who in 2006 got through 6,9 litres per capita. When you consider that this includes every man, woman and child in Russia it is an impressive or alarming figure, depending on one’s point of view.

The Chinese were the second biggest drinkers of spirits (3,7 litres per capita), followed by the Hungarians and the Japanese. South Africa came a relatively sober 29th in these rankings.

The report shows that total Cape wine production is two-third whites and one-third reds. The grapes most used for white wines are chenin blanc, colombard, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, and for red wines cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinotage and merlot.

The main wine producing regions are Stellenbosch, Paarl, Malmesbury and Robertson, in that order. – Michael Green