Italy and the World’s Top Wine Drinkers


Italians have long been regarded for their love of wines, but new statistics show they could be losing their thirst for vino.

Drop in il Vino

Viva ItaliaNew data from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine/Office International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) shows that the US is now the world’s biggest wine-drinking nation (based on consumption data for 2015). This is driven mainly by millennials and their growing love for the wine lifestyle.

Americans downed more than  30.1 million hectolitres of wine last year, followed by the French who drank 27.2 million hectolitres, and Germans with 20.5 million hl.

And Italy? Surprisingly, it placed fourth on the list, falling behind Germany with a little over 20.4 million hl– or the equivalent of 13.6 billion glasses. This means that in 2015, the land of Chianti and Prosecco drank less wine than beer-guzzling Germany for the first time ever. The figure for Italy is also the lowest level since the country unified in 1861, according to the trade union of Coldiretti farmers, as cited by the same OIV report.

The numbers for Italy translate to each person drinking an average of 33.1 litres for that year.

The Chinese round out the Top 5, with a consumption of 16 million hl, a 3.2% increase from 2014 figures.

Completing the Top 10 is the UK at 6th place with 12.6m hl; Argentina with 10.3m hl; Spain with 10m hl; Russia with 8.9m hl; and Australia with 5.4m hl.

Italy Losing its Taste for Wine?

The all-time low number for Italy came, ironically, as the country dethroned France to become the largest wine producer in the world for 2015. One in every five wine bottles sold overseas came from Italy.

Like most of Europe, Italy has been drinking less and less in recent decades, with wine consumption dropping 19% since the start of the recession that hit Italy back in 2008. Many European countries are instead seeing a steady rise in beer drinking, especially among young people.

17,000 people from 13 EU countries, plus the US, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey were asked about their drinking preferences, and many of the results are quite surprising. The study was commissioned and the research was carried out by market research firm GfK.

It found that almost one-third of respondents from Western Europe have never had alcohol. In Italy, 53% of those surveyed say they have abstained from alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile,  83% of the respondents from the predominantly Muslim country Turkey, said they don’t drink alcohol at all.

Despite the drop in certain numbers, Italy is still one of the countries with the largest groups of frequent drinks, or those who drink alcohol at least once a day. Sixteen percent (16%)  of the Italian respondents say they poured themselves a glass at least once a day.

Better than France

Is Italy betterEven with the dispiriting numbers, Italy remains fiercely proud of their wine produce and history. Just recently, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi started a diplomatic spat and a heated debate among wine lovers by claiming his country’s vintages are better than France’s own.

During the Vinitaly trade show in Verona, the Italian Premier said, “Our wine is better than French wine.”

Renzi added that when he told French President François Hollande the same thing, the French president replied, “Ours is more expensive.”

“Game, set, match to him,” Renzi quipped, referring to the age-old rivalry between French and Italian wines.

This longstanding rivalry between two of the wine industry’s major players can only mean great things for wine drinkers. These two countries will have to come up with better vintages, step up their marketing game, and offer better packages to consumers.

As the Italians say, “nella botte piccola c’è il vino buono,” or ‘in small barrels, there is good wine’. In the same way, in the small numbers for Italy, there’s hope that the wine sector has a good (if not great) future.