The biggest exporters of wine are Italy, Spain, France, Chile, and Australia, while the largest importers are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and China. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States are also top exporters, but while Germany exports homegrown produce, the United Kingdom resells imports after refining. The world consumes about 250 million hectoliters of wine, which is equivalent to 10,000 Olympic size swimming pools annually. The United States is the world’s largest wine market, with an annual consumption of about 30 million hectoliters. However, the average per capita consumption of 10 liters is lower than in many other countries. China is the fifth-largest market with a consumption of about 18 million hectoliters, but the per capita consumption is about 1.3 liters. If China consumed as much as the United States, it would account for more than half of the global consumption. Wine for commercial purpose is produced in about 70 countries, but France, Italy, and Spain account for almost half of the global production. Red wine accounts for 60% of the global output. Countries in the Northern Hemisphere package and export ready-to-drink wine, but those in the Southern Hemisphere ship wine in bulk, which is then refined and bottled upon arrival.
Top Wine Importing Countries
The United States
The United States is the world’s largest wine market, but it can only produce two-thirds to three-quarters of what it consumes. In 2018, the country imported $6.5 billion worth of wine, representing 24% of volume and 26% of sales. The proportion of US imports has remained stagnant for the past 25 years, but the real volume has increased significantly. The United States imports two-thirds from France and Italy, while the rest is imported from New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Portugal, and Germany.
The United Kingdom imported about $1.3 billion worth of wine in 2018. About three-quarters of the imports were sourced from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Other major exporters are Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa. The United Kingdom imports about 38 million hectoliters of wine but only consumes half. The rest is packaged and exported to other countries. The amount and value of wine imported to the United Kingdom is expected to decline once the country fully exits the European Union.
Germany imported $3.1 billion worth of wine in 2018. The German market is competitive as wine consumers are open to imports if it comes at the right price. Much of the wine produced in Germany is white, so most of the imports consist of red wine. Discounters dominate the wine market, therefore keeping the average price low and limiting possibilities for value addition. Italy, France and Spain account for about three-quarters of Germany’s imports. Other major exporters are South Africa, the United States, Austria, Chile, and Australia.
China imported about $2.9 billion worth of wine in 2018, representing 7.5% of global imports. China is the fifth-largest market with a consumption of about 18 million hectoliters, but the per capita consumption is about 1.3 liters. If China consumed as much as the United States, it would account for more than half of global use. China is a growing market that presents more opportunities for future imports.
Canada imports about $2 billion worth of wine annually. Canada is among the top consumers of wine in the world, but it does not produce enough to satisfy domestic demand. The younger generation is changing preference from beer to wine, thus increasing the demand. Over 70% of the wine consumed in the country is imported. France, the United States, Australia, and Spain account for 74% of imports by volume and 79% by value.
Japan is the 6th largest importer of wine, with annual imports of about $1.7 billion. Japan is a mature and sophisticated market, with more than 30 million consumers. Wine importation is an open business though there are regulations to protect from dumping and substandard products. Japan’s appetite for wine has quadrupled over the past three decades, but domestic production has also increased significantly. Japan opts for modestly priced wine from Australia and South American countries.
Hong Kong has a population of about 7.3 million people, but it receives approximately 5.5 million tourists annually. Every year, the autonomous territory imports about $1.5 billion worth of fine to satisfy residents’ and tourists’ demands. Hong Kong does not grow grapes, but it imports thousands of tones from growing countries to process wine. In addition, the country imports thousands of bottles of processed wine.
The Netherlands produces about 900,000 liters of white and red wine, but the country’s climate is not suitable for the growth of traditional varieties of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The deficit is imported as part of the $1.4 billion worth of fine the country imports annually. France, Germany, Chile, and Italy are the top exporters of wine to the Netherlands.
Switzerland imports about $1.2 billion worth of wine annually. The country is a popular tourist destination but can only produce 108,000 liters of wine, representing 30% of what is consumed. The remaining 60% is imported mainly from the European Union. Switzerland exports about 1.0% of its wine to other countries.
Belgium imports $1.2 billion worth of wine annually. Belgium is known for brewing great beers, but it also produces fantastic wine. However, the country is unable to meet the domestic demand and is forced to import more from the European Union. Southern European wine has an active market in Belgium, but Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of the country, is open to New World wines.