Monday, December 5, 2022

Wine versus beer consumption, worldwide

Alcohol consumption is typically characterized as being via intake of either wine, beer or spirits. This is so, no matter how much or how little alcohol is actually consumed. I have touched on this topic before, by ignoring spirits, and thus focusing on wine and beer (Beer countries and wine countries). In that case, I looked at per capita consumption in 2015, for 47 countries. It is time to update this a bit, and study percentages instead of volume.

I have had a look at the data for 2018, as contained in the Annual Database of Global Wine Markets, compiled by Anderson,  Nelgen and Pinilla. Tables 53a (Wine's share of total alcohol consumption volume) and 53b (Beer's share of total alcohol consumption volume) contain the information that we want, for each country.

Note that we need to standardize the data for each country, in order to deal with different population sizes and demographies, as well as standardizing for alcohol content, since wine has up to three times as much as beer. So, the data refer to the percentage of national alcohol consumption that is made up by wine and by beer.

The result is shown in the graph, for 48 countries. Each point represents one country, located vertically based on liters of alcohol consumed as beer during 2018, and horizontally based on liters of alcohol consumed as wine during 2018.

I have labeled 29 of the countries, for discussion; I have also colored (rather than labeled) the three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden). The pink line indicates equality of consumption — the countries above the line consume more alcohol via beer than wine, and those below the line consume more alcohol via wine than beer. There are 14 countries in the latter group, plus New Zealand sitting pretty much on the fence.

Per capita consumption of wine and beer

As expected, there is generally a negative relationship between beer and wine consumption — the more wine you consume then the less beer that you can consume (since beer + wine + spirits must add up to 100%). There are however, a few countries in the bottom left-hand part of the graph, which consume very little wine, and do not make this up with all that much beer consumption, either. That is, spirits make up a lot of the alcohol; but remember, these (mostly Asian) countries actually consume very little alcohol at all, even spirits. On the other hand, the countries just to the right of China (in the graph) are: Bulgaria, Russia, and the Ukraine — these do consume a lot of spirits rather than either beer or wine.

As we might expect, a few well-known wine-producing countries are in the bottom right-hand corner of the graph. However, the four unlabeled countries in that region are: Greece, Morocco, Switzerland, and Uruguay, which are not big wine producers. Did you expect Morocco, even though it does not consume much alcohol at all, to drink more wine than beer? (Perhaps the lingering French colonial influence.)

The Scandinavian countries (in pink) are pretty close to the line of equality, along with Hungary and New Zealand, plus Algeria (unlabeled). Scandinavia has principally been a beer-drinking world (after they stopped drinking honey mead, long ago); but things have changed a lot in recent decades — this has a lot to do with having government-owned wine retailing (see: Wine monopolies, and the availability of wine). Nevertheless, Sweden is actually known to beer producers as a great market for boutique beers (there are even beers that are sold only in Sweden and their homeland) — at this time of the year, we have become awash in Christmas beers.

Note, also, that Australia and the United Kingdom are not all that much more in favor of beer than is New Zealand. The USA, on the other hand, is distinctly more in favor of beer; and this matters commercially, given that it has the third-biggest population on the planet. South Africa is even more in favor of beer, in spite of its thriving wine industry.

The difference between wine-producing and non-producing countries is particularly obvious for South America. Argentina (producing lots of wine) is well to the right in the graph (consuming lots of wine), while Brazil (producing very little wine) is way to the left (consuming very little wine), with Chile (unlabeled) half-way in between (in both aspects).

Clearly, this graph indicates where the wine industry could usefully put in some effort, in terms of attracting customers. In particular, there is clearly more work to do by the United States wine-makers!


  1. Very interesting data! Where on the graph is Canada? I would suspect higher then US on beer but around the same as US for wine?

  2. It is the first point directly to the right of the USA. So, more wine share but the same beer share.