Wine’s popularity has gone global

Posted Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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What wine would you drink with a nice herring on toast in a Liverpool pub? Why, an English white wine, of course — maybe made from the Bacchus grape by Biddenden Vineyards in Kent.

What would you order in a restaurant in China’s Sichuan province to go with its signature beef dish, gan bian niu rou si, spiced with ginger and black peppercorns? How about a hearty red merlot by the Chinese wine firm Dynasty, grown in that country’s Ningxia Helan Mountains region.

Wine is going global — and faster than many think. Here’s a glimpse at where wine is grown and consumed, and how that’s set to change in 2014 and beyond.

Who grows it

Most of the world’s Northern Hemisphere grapes are grown between latitudes 30 and 50 — roughly from Spain and Israel in the south to central Germany in the north. But this global swath also includes such unexpected countries as Afghanistan, India, China and even North Korea.

Grape-growing regions are shifting north. Climate change will expand grape production in England, China, Russia and Scandinavia by mid-century, The New York Times reports. At the same time, some fear that increasing heat may hurt established wine regions in Bordeaux, Tuscany and Spain.

England and Wales have doubled their winery numbers to more than 400 in the past decade, according to the MailOnline website. And while China is the world’s fifth-largest wine producer today, the country is on track to double its grape production in the next five years and become the world’s largest producer, reports

Who drinks it

Wine consumption is shifting east. Increasing affluence and sophistication are boosting wine in countries new to such luxury. Chinese wine consumption will double by 2016 to 400 million cases a year, making the country the world’s largest consumer, the Business Insider website says.

When French Bordeaux producers hiked prices sharply during the 2010 economic downturn, U.S. sippers pulled back, and newly rich Chinese wine fans became the world’s biggest importers of Bordeaux, says CNN Money. At the 2013 Hospices de Beaune auction in France, a Chinese businesswoman made news by paying $180,000 for a 456-liter barrel of fancy Burgundy.

Meanwhile, U.S. wine fans are holding our own. Consumption grew 2 percent in 2012, maintaining our status as the world’s top wine-drinking country, at least for now.

And the social-media revolution is changing the way Americans buy wine. Wine lovers are bypassing the old gate-keeping magazine and newspaper wine columnists (yes, like this one) and going online. They’re visiting winery websites, sharing likes and dislikes via wine blogs, and buying wine directly from wineries — bypassing distribution middle-men, said California growers surveyed by Silicon Valley Bank. It could be a boon to boutique wineries too small to hire national distributors.

Russia joined the top 10 world nations in wine sales in 2012, according to the Meininger’s wine business website. Its relatively unsophisticated sippers prefer inexpensive sweet wines, which now are made in France especially for them. It’s a fight, though — vodka and beer are still Russia’s national indulgence.

Global producers recognize the shift in consumption. French champagne giant Moet Hennessy has launched a new line of sparkling wines — “Chandon Nashik” — to be produced and drunk in India, says the Great Wine News website.

Who could take it or leave it

Wine consumption in Europe is lagging. In France, more than half of adults drank wine every day in 1980; today it’s only 17 percent, the BBC says. Italians are turning to beer and colas. Per-capita wine consumption has declined from 29 gallons a year in the 1970s to 11 gallons today, says the Italian wine association Assoenologi. Spain is on the same track. Already its sippers imbibe twice as much beer as wine.

Even so, Morgan Stanley Research says a global wine shortage looms. While global consumption grew by 1 percent in 2012, wine production fell by 5 percent to 2.8 billion cases, because of bad weather in Europe and Australia. And some fear that climate change could hurt California’s warmer growing areas as well.

Fred Tasker has retired from The Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at

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