Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Buy The Wine Numbers

by Jonathon Alsop
February 2002

Although I'm not really a numbers guy, I know enough not to be impressed by big numbers of anything, especially wine. When it comes to statistics, the story is in the variation between meaningful numbers, just like the story of wine is in the variation between types of grapes that are essentially all the same fruit.

Wine numbers -- acres of vines, gallons produced, gallons consumed -- show you the obvious: big countries are in the wine business big.

Throw in one more troublesome statistic -- per capita wine consumption -- and another sad conclusion is obvious: the United States is not a wine nation of the world.

Every year, the Wine Institute of San Francisco compiles and publishes world wine stats that tell the tale of a giant wine-producing nation that drinks no wine.

As a nation, the US certainly produces enough wine. We're number five in the world in total vineyard acres planted. Half a billion gallons of wine a year make us the number four winemaker on the planet, and that's good.

We're right behind France, Italy, and Spain and just ahead of another agricultural giant, Argentina. According to the Wine Institute's calculations, production is growing at 15 percent a year.

Our numbers for total wine consumption are impressive as well. The US is number three and trying harder, growing its taste for wine at an alleged 14 percent a year.

Here's where it gets squirrelly: all of a sudden, when you look at per capita wine consumption, the US isn't in the top ten anymore. In fact -- at number 34 on the list -- we barely make the first page!

As a nation, we consume a pathetic 2 gallons of wine a year per person. Our statistical neighbors in this range -- Canada, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan -- are not exactly what you'd call wine nations.

France consumes almost 16 gallons of wine a year per person. Italy, more than 14. Croatia, about 12 and a half. Switzerland, 11.

Now these are world wine nations, and they show us that to compete culturally, our national appetite for wine must grow -- and could grow -- five fold.

A quick look in our recycling bin shows that we're doing our part around here. What's everyone else drinking?

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