Comment - Wine - Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
We here at just-drinks could never condone applying make-up to the faces of farm animals. Chris Losh, however, is a stickler for such details - especially if it provides a suitable analogy for the global wine market.
What was it Barack Obama said about Sarah Palin? “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’ll still be a pig”?
Well, I was reminded of that when I got the latest International Wine and Spirits Record report into the global wine industry. Commissioned by the French trade fair group, Vinexpo, it’s always a useful snapshot of what’s going on.
Useful, for sure, but (certainly of late) not terribly cheering – particularly for the UK. Any time somebody presents me with projected growth figures over a five-year period, rather than the next 12 months, I know that good news is in short supply. And, if you want an example of how to tart up a hog, then this is it.
You could probably sum up the year’s research thus: “France is screwed and everything is slowing down – let’s hope China comes good.”
But, since you’re probably hoping for a bit more in the way of analysis than that, I’ve picked out some of the key points below to see what they look like once the lipstick is removed.
L’Oreal pig quote: “White wine is the UK’s favourite wine, rosé is growing fast but red wine consumption dropped 8% in the last five years.”
What it means: After a brief dalliance with grown-up wines with, you know, tannin and stuff, the UK consumer has decided that Pinot Grigio and off-dry rosé is more to their taste.
L’Oreal pig quote: “Between 2005 and 2009 the world’s average annual production was 3bn nine-litre cases.”
What it means: Man, there’s a lot of wine out there not being sold. Since total production is 27bn litres and the report estimates that global consumption is 31bn bottles (21.7bn litres) that leaves the not inconsiderable amount of 5.5bn litres of wine left over every year. In other words, a quarter of all the wine currently made is superfluous to demand. Until recently, I’d have suggested that the Australians take it all and use it to irrigate their vines but I’m not sure that’s still the issue it was.
L’Oreal pig quote: “The UK wine market is set to grow by 2.4% from 2010 to 2014.”
What it means: This is a flat market. As flat as Oklahoma. As flat as Gordon Brown’s stand-up routine. Imagine a pancake, drive over it in a truck six times then stamp on it. Well that’s the UK wine market, that is.
L’Oreal pig quote: “Sparkling wine consumption grew 33% in the Russian Federation over the last five years.”
What it means: You need a lot of Champagne to fill a bath full of hookers.
L’Oreal pig quote: “By the end of 2014, China is expected to be the sixth biggest wine producer in the world.”
What it means: In a word, disaster. If there was one statistic in the whole report that sent my eyebrows shooting up into my hairline, it was this one. I knew that people were planting grapes in China, but if the IWSR report is accurate, and production does grow by 77% in the next four years, they will be making 128m cases of wine by 2014. That’s more than Chile, South Africa, Germany and even, potentially, Australia, should the latter’s plans to cut its production go ahead. Not only does the wine world not need another 128m cases of wine, the current producing countries sure as hell don’t want them coming out of the only place on the planet that has been looking like a decent export bet. Bad, bad news … .
L’Oreal pig quote: “Both French wine production and consumption are falling – and expected to continue to do so.”
What it means: Whole sectors of the French wine industry are stuffed. However many tyres they burn or McDonalds they trash, many grape growers – particularly in the south – are going to find themselves without a buyer for their wines. Also, as of next year, they'll be without the bail-out of crisis distillation. If they could prove that wine makes you run faster, they might get some help from President Sarkozy. Otherwise, ils sont foutus … .
L’Oreal pig quote: “Sales of New Zealand wine to the UK grew by 80% from 2005 to 2009.”
What it means: The UK will take anything as long as it’s cheap. The crappiest, thinnest, nastiest, most miserable parody of a Kiwi Sav will still find a warm welcome in the arms of UK supermarket buyers. Provided they haven’t sold it all to their good friends in Australia … .
L’Oreal pig quote: “The UK is expected to grow by 1.1% in value from 2010 to 2014.”
What it means: Hold on, I thought the UK was going to grow at 2.4%? Ah, that was by volume and this is by value, you say? So, that means that the UK market is actually going backwards? That, even with duty rises, wine prices won’t keep up with inflation? Would the last wine producer out of the country please turn off the lights?
L’Oreal pig quote: “Chinese wine consumption grew by 100% from 2004 to 2009, and is predicted to grow 20% over the next four years.”
What it means: Dear God, Please don’t let China slow down. I promise I’ll do everything you ask for ever more. Amen. The Wine Industry.
France, Italy and Spain have joined forces to warn about the dangers of a wine glut in the European Union if vine planting restrictions are relaxed. Here, just-drinks brings you data on how the EU vin...
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