How France shapes up in the global wine industry

No country is more synonymous with wine than France but a new annual report on the global wine industry has revealed the home of Bordeaux and Burgundy does not have everything its own way when it comes to plonk.

How France shapes up in the global wine industry
Photo: AFP

There was both good and bad news for France in this week’s annual report on the outlook of the wine industry by the International Organization of Wine and Vine (OIV).

From the world’s top producers and exporters we take a look at how France compares to the other competitors in the global market, including far-east giant China, which is emerging as a major player.

Biggest area for wine production

Although vineyards cover France from the Loire to Languedoc and from Burgundy to Bordeaux the country is not actually home to the largest area dedicated to wine production, not even the world’s second-largest area.

Spain leads the way on this front with 1.02 million hectares of earth given over to grapes. China now has the second-largest wine growing area with 799,000 hectares of vines compared to 792,000 hectares in France.

In fourth place comes Italy with 690,000 hectares and then Turkey with 502,000 hectares. The United States is back in sixth place with 425,000 hectares devoted to wine production.

China has rapidly emerged as a major player in viniculture, accounting for 11 percent of the territory given over to vineyards last year, up from 4 percent in 2000.

"There are plantations of dozens, even hundreds, of thousands of hectares created with Chinese money, but using the foreign expertise of wine-growers from Australia, the United States, Spain, France and Italy," said Jean-Marie Aurand, head of the OIV.

He said many young Chinese were also travelling abroad to learn the arts of the trade, while China was now developing its own training centres.

Europe has purposefully shrunk its vineyards in a bid to improve quality and efficiency, and push up prices. Under a 2008-2011 plan, the European Union sought to reduce them by a total of 94,000 hectares per year.

France has lost a tenth of its wine-growing area in the past decade without threatening its comfortable lead in the production tables

Biggest producers of wine

But clearly size isn’t everything if we compare areas of wine production to how much plonk is actually produced.

On this front France are top dogs, pumping out almost 47 million hectolitres last year, thanks to an 11 percent boost in production compared to 2013. That puts France ahead of Italy which produced almost 45 million hectolitres, which reflected a 17 percent drop from 2013.

Spain came in third place with just under 42 million hectolitres and the US in fourth place on 22 million hectolitres. For the record China produced around 11 million hectolitres.

Biggest guzzlers of wine

So we know who producers the most wine, but what about who consumes the most? While the French never seem to be without a glass of wine at every meal, they are not actually the world’s top guzzlers.

This title goes to the US where the folk put away some 31,000 hectolitres – a two percent rise on 2013. Then came the French (28,000 hectolitres), whose consumption of wine actually fell by three percent last year and then Italy (20,400 hectolitres). Then came Germany (20,200 hectolitres), China (15,800 hectolitres) and the UK (12,600 hectolitres).

Consumption of wine in China actually fell by seven percent last year to around 15,800 hectolitres.

Biggest exporters of wine

The wine export market is largely dominated by Spain, Italy and France, who represent more than half of the world’s wine exports in terms of value of sales as well as in terms of volume.

Whereas Spain exported the most (22.5 million hectolitres) – a huge 21 percent jump on the volume of Spanish wine sold abroad in 2013 – France actually made the most exports.

In terms of volume France exported 14.3 million hectolitres it made €7.7 billion from selling wine abroad, compared to Spain’s €2.4 billion. A sign of how France produces much more top end wines that its Iberian neighbour.

For its part Italy exported 20.5 million hectolitres and pulled in €5 billion in selling wine abroad. The US exported four million hectolitres at a value of €1.1 billion and Australia sent 7.3 million hectolitres abroad for a value of €1.2billion.

Importers of wine

The biggest importers of wine last year were Germany, the United Kingdom and then the US. It might be a surprise to some, given that France produces so much wine, but the country actually came fourth in the table of the world’s biggest importers, ahead of Russia and China.

Germany imported 15.1 million hectolitres at a cost of €2.5 billion, compared to the UK, which ordered 13.3 million hectolitres at a cost of 3.5 billion. The US ordered 10.7 million hectolitres worth €4 billion.

And France ordered 6.4 million hectolitres of foreign wine for a cost of €620 million.

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