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Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Every year, South African Wine Industry Information and Systems, a company controlled by the wine industry, produces a report with a mass of statistics about the industry. It is a fascinating document for those who have the fortitude to plough through hundreds of figures, and obviously it is aimed mainly at wine producers themselves, who study trends and comparisons and shape their policies accordingly.

The latest report appeared recently, and here are some of the facts and figures that have, I think, a general interest.

The wine industry in South Africa is much wider than the ordinary meaning of the word wine. It encompasses natural (still), fortified and sparkling wines, brandy, and grape juice and grape juice concentrate used in wine and non-alcoholic products.

In 2010, as in previous years, chenin blanc was by far the most widely planted wine grape in South Africa, followed in the white wine category by colombar, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Chenin blanc accounted for 18.4% of the country’s total vineyards.

Cabernet sauvignon headed the red wine grapes, occupying 12.3% of all wine farms. It was followed by shiraz, merlot and pinotage.

White varieties accounted for 56.2% of all plantings, red varieties 43.8%.

Drinking habits in South Africa seem to have changed over the past ten years. The report measures per capita consumption as a percentage share of the total, based on alcohol content. Over the past decade, wine consumption decreased from 14% to 12,6%, brandy remained more or less the same: 5.9% in 2001 and 6.1% in 2010.

There are many more beer drinkers than wine drinkers, it seems (beer had 42.4% of the market in 2001, 46.1% in 2010). Alcoholic fruit beverages went up from 3.3% to 6.2%.

The big winner in the statistics was whisky, its share of the market rising from 2.8% to 5.1%. All those thirsty politicians?

A survey of world wine production shows that the biggest producers are Italy (17.9% of the total), France (17.1%) and Spain (12.2%). South Africa, with 3.7%, lies eighth, behind the United States, Argentina, Australia and Chile. – Michael Green