Monday, 5 February 2018

Where does all of this wine come from and go to?

A few weeks ago I commented on some of those countries that are importing expensive versus cheap wine (The USA imports more expensive wines than anywhere else). This leads us inevitably to consider, globally, where all the wines are coming from and going to.

The data I will use to explore this come from Comtrade, the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database. I accessed all of the data available for 2016 in the category: "Wine; still, in containers holding more than 2 litres" (code 22042). This may include pretty much anything (bulk or otherwise), except import/export of single bottles of wine, but excludes sparkling or fortified wines.

I have plotted the results in the graph, which shows the total reported exports (in kg, which ≈ liters) horizontally, and the total reported imports vertically, with each point representing a single country (as recognized by the UN). Some of the countries are labeled, but most are not. Note that both axes have logarithmic scales, so that the most active countries are dealing with up to 1 million tons of wine annually.

Exports and imports of wine by country

For those countries above the line, their imports exceed their exports, while for those below the line, exports exceed imports. Obviously, most countries are net importers of wine. For the the USA, imports exceed exports by c. 50%.

Those countries that are large net exporters of wine are well known, including Spain, Chile, Italy, Australia and South Africa. France is not in this list because, according to the data, it imports nearly three times as much wine as it exports. Portugal is another absentee, as it imports more than twice as much wine as it exports. I discussed these two issues in the previous post (The USA imports more expensive wines than anywhere else).

The next group of net exporters includes (in order) Moldova, New Zealand, Macedonia, Myanmar (Burma) and Argentina, followed by Hungary, Israel, Morocco and Bulgaria. For Myanmar 96% of the wine goes to Suriname, and for Morocco 89% goes to France, which is why you have never tasted either of these wines. Macedonian wine principally goes to Germany (41%) and Serbia (34%), while Hungarian wine goes to Germany (30%) and Czechia (23%). The USA takes the largest share of the Israeli wine (46%), although France (11%) and the UK (10%) get their share, as well. Moldova sends its wines to mainly to Belarus (40%) and the Ukraine (19%), while Bulgarian wine goes to Poland (56%) and Sweden (25%).

The biggest net importers are generally (but not always) those countries with large populations but with only a relatively small wine industry: Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — that's right, France is the third biggest net importer of wine in the world! These countries are followed by (in order) Iceland, Sweden, Czechia, USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

I have commented before that there seems to be a number of countries that are credited with exporting far more wine than they actually produce (Bizarre wine data). In the Comtrade dataset, these countries include: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Thailand, Norway, Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong and Iceland. Normally, I would conclude that these data involve re-exports of imported wine; however, "re-export" is officially a separate category of data in the Comtrade database. It therefore seems to me that the data might not be organized as well as we would like.


  1. David,I think you may be incorrect when you write that shipments in containers of more than 2 litres "includes pretty much everything except import/export of single bottles of wine" In the case of the U.S., the category of containers more than 2 litres does not include wines packaged in 750ml bottles, which is that majority of volume of imports into the U.S. Much of the wine shipped in containers of 2 litres or more is shipped in bladders and, while significant in volume, is less than the volume shipped in 750ml or 1.5L bottles. According to the recent OIV report, bulk wine, represents 38% of total volume of world wine exports. See this link:

    1. Bulk wine import/export was my originally intended topic, but the Comtrade data for many of the countries clearly includes much more than just shipping containers. Exactly which countries have included only bulk wines and which have included everything proved to be too difficult to work out.