Wine Drought: World Faces A Wine Shortage
November 6, 2013

Wine Drought: World Faces A Wine Shortage

This week several news outlets have reported that the world is facing a shortage of wine, as demand outpaces supply. As everybody knows, when that happens to a product, prices go up. Occasionally wars are fought too, but we’ll hold off on that sort of speculation for now.

In 2012, the planet had 300 million cases fewer than it needed to satisfy people’s appetite. This is the “deepest shortfall in over 40 years of records,” according to a quote from financial services firm Morgan Stanley, whose report is the basis for a story in the Mirror.

Unhelpful weather conditions in Europe have contributed to the problem, while global demand for wine has increased every year since 1996, except for 2008 when it fell, no doubt a consequence of the economic crisis. New world producers such as the US, South Africa, Australia and Chile have been increasing production though, and they have most to gain from the looming crisis (a lot of wine lovers won’t think that choice of word is too strong).

Demand from the Chinese market, which is obviously huge, has increased significantly in recent years, as it has in other Asian countries in my experience. It was much more difficult to buy wine in South Korea when I moved there in 2009 than when it was when I left in late 2012.

In my opinion, wine has an aspirational element to it. It is as much a part of an affluent, tasteful lifestyle as it is about getting spannered (that’s drunk, in case that wasn’t clear). These lifestyle shifts are strongly present in Asian countries whose wealth is rapidly increasing, but applies to a lot of people all over the world too. We don’t just want the wine; we want what it symbolizes as well.

Of course, to many European countries wine is like water, and not something they have thought about simply for posturing. It’s just there. But the list of the world’s biggest consumers of wine shows an interesting mix of these two factors, with China sitting alongside Italy in second place on 9 percent of world consumption. France and the US are level at the top on 12 percent.

Despite recent drops in production in Europe, by around 10 percent in 2012, as well as other factors mentioned, we have not yet seen the full impact of the global wine shortage. Various vintages are keeping things steady (financially), and the worst is apparently yet to come. Depending on how much panic there is the problem could be self-perpetuating, like economic crises, when people start hoarding upon news of trouble. The recent news stories might be the catalyst for that.

Global wine consumption currently stands at around 3 billion cases per year, and there are around 1 million producers.

Whatever the reasons for the global wine shortage, we can’t blame the cats that have recently started enjoying a tipple; their wine is non-alcoholic, and I don’t think that’s the stuff that’s really in demand.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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