Reality Check II | China’s wine market is NOT double the size of the US’

A few months ago, BBC reported that China had overtaken France as a wine-growing region based on statistics from the OIV. It turned out that while China had more vineyards, most were for table grapes, and the country’s wine production was but a quarter that of France. (See this post: Reality Check.)

Now another startling claim: that the China wine market is the world’s biggest and more than double that of runner-up The United States. The source seems to be this story in The Globe and Mail:

China’s wine consumption in 2014 was more than double that of the No. 2 consumer, the United States, according to data from research firm IWSR [International Wine and Spirit Research].”

As with the vineyard case, the numbers don’t add up, as shown by how others have reported IWSR data:

“The U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer of still and sparkling wine by both volume and value… research organisation International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) said during [a press conference]. In 2014 the U.S. consumed 339.6 million cases of wine… The next biggest consumers are France (296.4 million cases), Italy, Germany and China….”

Wine Searcher, 22 January 2015

“According to the IWSR, the U.S. is still the biggest market by volume, drinking a total of 339 million cases of wine in 2013 [2014?]. This was above France’s 296 million cases, Italy’s 288 million, Germany’s 274 million and China’s 144 million (which made it the world’s fifth largest consumer of wine).

Wall Street Journal, 28 January 2015

VINEXPO revealed today the highly-anticipated results of its 12th study of the World Wine and Spirits Market with an Outlook to 2018, conducted by British agency International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR).”

“A growing driver of global growth and consumption, the United States became in 2014 the top consumer of still wines with a total consumption of 339.6 million cases (up 11.6 per cent versus 2009). The country also ranks first among the top 10 largest wine markets, with business totaling US$29.5 billion.”

PR Newswire / VINEXPO, 17 February 2015

It seems everyone, including the organization that commissioned an IWSR study, agrees the United States is the top consumer market for wine. And stats from the OIV show the same:

“With 30.7 mhl [in 2014], the United States confirmed its position as the biggest global consumer country. France (27.9 mhl) and Italy (20.4 mhl), in keeping with past trends, resumed their decline between 2013 and 2014, by 0.9 mhl and 1.4 mhl respectively. The level of consumption in China is estimated at 15.8 mhl: a reduction of 1.2 mhl compared with 2013.”

OIV, 27 April 2015

Thus, it appears the United States wine market is about twice as big as that of China, not the other way around. Perhaps, as Liz Thach suggested in an email, more than wine was counted–say spirits or other alcohols–to reach those numbers. Just as those table grape vineyards were counted along with their wine grape counterparts to result in that misleading BBC story a few months ago.

Robert Joseph mentioned this case earlier tonight, one that shows just how tough it can be to get our minds around what is happening in China. It’s hard enough to find reliable data about this country, it doesn’t help when it gets misreported.

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  1. By staying in China one would see that China can hardly be a larger wine consumer than that of the US. There are really not that many wine drinkers, not that many wines for sale in stores and not that many wines are available. Besides, the wines here are mostly low quality and over-priced. I am looking forward to a time that decent wine is no longer a luxury.

  2. You would think in this day and age, these numbers would be accurate, but alas, not. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking!

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