A mix of the pandemic and trade disputes made 2020 a tough year for the global wine industry, according to a new report.

By Mike Pomranz
April 21, 2021
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It certainly felt like some of us were drinking more wine during the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite our best efforts, a new report suggests that global wine consumption dropped significantly over the past year—reaching its lowest level since 2002.

The Paris-based International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) announced the findings of its annual State of the World Vitivinicultural Sector report yesterday, and though the group billed 2020 as "a year of resilience," as expected, it was also a year of struggles: Global consumption of wine was down 3 percent to 234 million hectoliters, about 6.2 billion gallons; and wine production, though up 1 percent from 2019, was also "slightly below average."

Close-up of red wine being poured in from a bottle into the glass.
Credit: Instants/Getty Images

COVID-19 was a major—but not the only—culprit. "The full or partial closure of the [hospitality industry] has caused a fall in sales in value, and to a lesser extent in volume, only partially compensated by the increase in wine sales via e-commerce and large retailers," OIV wrote. "Premium wine suffered the most from the closure of restaurants and tasting rooms, while large producers that owned the off-premise channel with large partner wholesalers performed well."

And yet, OIV's director Pau Roca said that these declines were actually modest compared to the organization's previous doomsday prediction that wine drinking could drop as much as 10 percent. "That forecast was a bit too negative," he said at a press conference according to the AFP. "The increase of wine sales at supermarkets really helped compensate [for the losses at bars and restaurants]."

Americans in particular kept their wine drinking steady. "The USA, once again confirm their position as the world's largest wine consuming country, reaching [33.0 million hectoliters] in 2020. This volume is in line with 2019 notwithstanding the impact of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis," the report states. "This could be owed to the relatively less stringent lockdown measures as well as a notable spurge of e-commerce in USA."

Beyond the pandemic, the other major factor cited by OIV was "the imposition of new trade barriers (US retaliatory tariffs, China tariffs on Australian wine, Brexit)." Indeed, the world wine export market saw volumes down 1.7 percent from 2019 with more expensive wines taking a massive hit: The total value of global exports was down 6.7 percent, the most significant downward turn in this metric since 2009.

Digging into specific types of wine, the report found that, with the exception of Prosecco, sparkling wine was the category that saw the worst declines over the course 2020. And interestingly enough, bag-in-box wine sales "experienced a sharp increase." Though no specific reason for this was given, OIV does describes "bag-in-box" as "containers holding more than 2 liters but less than 10 liters" meaning some of us most likely did drink more wine than ever last year.