Monday, April 5, 2021

Beer countries and wine countries

In the world of alcohol consumption there are beer drinkers, wine drinkers, and alcoholics. Some countries are considered to have mostly beer drinkers, and others have mostly wine drinkers. But how many countries are there of each?

In order to find out, I have had a look at the data for 2015, as contained in the Annual Database of Global Wine Markets, compiled by Anderson,  Nelgen and Pinilla. Tables 41b (Volume of beverage wine consumption per adult) and 45b (Volume of beer consumption per adult) contain the information that we want.

Note that we need to standardize the data for each country, in order to deal with different population sizes and demographies (ie. we should compare consumption per adult), as well as standardizing for alcohol content, since wine has up to three times as much as beer (ie. we should compare liters of alcohol).

The result is shown in the graph, for 47 countries. Each point represents one country, located vertically based on liters of alcohol consumed as beer per adult during 2015, and horizontally based on liters of alcohol consumed as wine per adult during 2015. The USA is shown as the red point.

Wine consumption versus beer consumption

The pink line indicates equality of consumption — the countries above the line consume more beer than wine, and those below the line consume more wine than beer. Note that there are three countries in the dataset that consume very little alcohol (Algeria, Morocco and India); and there is only one other country where beer and wine consumption are roughly equal — New Zealand, of all places.

There are 11 countries where wine consumption greatly exceeds beer consumption — from right to left in the graph: Portugal, Croatia, France, Italy, Moldova, Switzerland, Denmark, Argentina, Greece, Georgia, and Uruguay. Note that all but two of these are in Europe, which surprises no-one.

However, what might surprise you is the presence of Denmark in this list, as Scandinavia has principally been a beer-drinking world (after they stopped drinking honey mead, long ago). Indeed, both Sweden and Norway are just above the graph line (at c. 2 liters of wine and 2.5 liters of beer). Sweden is actually know to beer producers as a great market for boutique beers (there are even beers that are sold only in Sweden and their homeland). Indeed, as this post is being published, Sweden is awash in purpose-brewed Easter beers — there is no such thing as an Easter wine (there are, however, Easter lilies).

So, there are 32 / 47 countries that distinctly prefer beer to wine. However, note that the top three beer consumers (from the top of the graph: Belgium-Luxembourg, Germany, and Austria) also consume as much wine as do half of the 11 wine-drinking countries — they just drink three times as much beer as wine! (Note: UNESCO recently included "Wine Culture in Germany" in its Federal List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.)

The fourth-place beer drinkers (Ireland) do not do too bad in the wine stakes, either. The British only slightly prefer beer to wine (3.8 vs. 3.1 liters), whereas Americans have a three-fold preference for beer (4.2 vs. 1.4 liters). Canadians drink slightly more wine and slightly less beer than do Americans, whereas South Africans drink the same amount of wine but somewhat less beer.

Australia is sixth in beer consumption, just behind Romania, and just ahead of Spain; but, surprisingly, Australians drink 60% more wine than do the Spaniards. The fact that the people of Spain drink twice as much beer as wine makes them the odd-ones-out among the major wine-producing countries of Europe. This needs looking into. (And you should try finding on the web a picture with a Spanish wine and a Spanish beer in the same image!)


  1. David writes:

    ". . . Americans have a three-fold preference for beer (4.2 vs. 1.4 liters)."

    Allow me to resurrect from the comment section of an earlier blog post by David these wine consumption statistics (circa 2012) on the demographics of U.S. wine drinkers.

    (Valid in 2010. Valid today in 2021.)

    Excerpt from
    (May 12, 2010):

    “The Market for Fine Wine in the United States”

    [Fine Wine 2010 Conference in Ribera del Duero (Spain)]


    By Graham Holter
    Associate Director – Publishing
    Wine Intelligence market research firm (United Kingdom)

    "According to the data presented by [David] Francke [managing director of California’s Folio Fine Wine Partners], US wine drinking is compressed into a small segment of the population.

    "SIXTEEN PERCENT OF CORE WINE DRINKERS consume wine once a week or more frequently, which ACCOUNTS FOR AROUND 96 PERCENT OF CONSUMPTION. Thirty-five million adults drink virtually all of the wine sold in America, Francke said."

    [CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis. ~~ Bob]

    Corresponds with the "80-20 Rule of Marketing" -- 80% of your sales revenue comes from 20% of your customer base.

    For those interested in exploring further this observed phenomenon, Google these keywords: "Pareto principle" and "Joseph Juran."  

  2. Most interesting, David. By any chance, was Chile among the countries in the graph?

    1. Indeed, Chile is there, located at Wine:2.1 Beer:2.6. In the graph, it is right next to Sweden.