Monday, 17 October 2016

Bizarre wine data

While I was looking for some data about wine imports/exports for Australia, I came across a report from the Global Agricultural Information Network, which is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service, of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Title page from 2015 Wine Annual

Among much other data, this report does contain import / export data. Chart 5 claims to show data over four years for the major countries from which Australia imports wine, in units of Millions of Liters. Cross-checking with other sources, the data for New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Chile and the United States seem to be correct.

Graph from 2015 Wine Annual

However, the presence of Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands in the graph seems to be quite bizarre. Indeed, none of these countries even produces the amount of wine shown for each year, let alone exports it to Australia. After all, 10 million litres is a lot of wine for somewhere like Sweden to be exporting to anywhere!

To many people's surprise, Sweden does actually have an active wine industry (see Wikipedia), as also do both Ireland and the Netherlands. There are c. 15 commercial wine producers in Sweden, out of an estimated 250 vineyards. More than 40 vineyards are listed at the growers' association, Föreningen Svenskt Vin; and there is even a book about some of them: Tjugo Skånska Vingårdar (see The vineyards of Sweden). The latest official figures I can find (from the agriculture ministry, Jordbruksverket) are for 2009, when Sweden apparently produced 17,859 litres of wine for commercial use (6,695 litres of red, 7,737 litres of white, 3,427 litres of rosé) from a vineyard area of 20 hectares. Current figures are likely to be at least double these.

The recent warming of Europe has made a big difference, of course, as it has in other areas (see the recent post on Fifty years of Bordeaux vintages). This topic is discussed in more detail elsewhere: Sweden's wine industry is maturing nicely — thanks to climate change (and see also: The feasibility of Ireland becoming a wine producing country due to climate change). In addition, proximity to the sea helps moderate the climate in most of Sweden's vineyard areas (the Baltic Sea is quite shallow and therefore relatively warm).

And, yes, you have never heard of most of the vine cultivars that are grown. For example, many are particularly hardy hybrids developed in Germany (eg. Solaris) or Czechoslovakia (eg. Rondo). And, no, I don't think that the resulting wines will take Australia by storm, or anywhere else for that matter.