Global wine production: Northern hemisphere countries suffer while southern hemisphere winemakers thrive

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/jacobsstockphotographylimited
Pic:getty/jacobsstockphotographylimited

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Bad weather conditions in the EU hampered wine production in 2021 but the southern hemisphere recorded record highs in production: balancing out wine production figures at a global level.

World wine production for 2021 is estimated at 260 mhl, marking a 1% decline compared to 2020, according to figures released by international wine organisation OIV. Overall, the 2021 global wine production volume can be defined for the third consecutive year as slightly below its ten-year average.

France winemakers hit by spring frost

Vinified production in the EU in 2021 now reaches 153.7mhl, representing  an  8%  decline  compared  to 2020 and tracking 5% below its last-five-year average. Italy, France and Spain retained their positions as the world’s top wine producers: although France took a hit from adverse weather conditions.

“This downfall recorded in the EU can mainly be explained by reductions in wine production levels in France due to spring frost episodes experienced in April 2021,”​ notes the OIV.

“In the rest of the EU, among other countries, quite a heterogeneous situation can be observed in the wine production levels, mainly due to different weather conditions throughout the year. Italy (50.2 mhl), France (37.6 mhl), and Spain (35.3 mhl), together account for 47% of the world wine production in 2021.

“Among these top three wine producers, Italy was the only one that recorded an increase not only in wine production compared to 2020 (+2%1) but also with respect to its last-five-year average (+3%).

“France on the other hand was sharply affected by unfavourable weather conditions- mainly the late frosts in April that severely damaged the harvests. Besides the exceptionally small vintage of 2017, France’s 2021 wine production level is one of the lowest productions seen since 2000.”

In fact, France’s 2021 wine production level was 19% lower than 2020 and 14% below its last five-year average level; while Spain also suffered with 2021 wine production down 14% on 2020 and 8% below its last five-year average.

Recording a level of 7.9 mhl, Germany’s wine production was 5% down on 2020, like France affected by the spring frost episode in some of its wine growing regions. Hungary’s (2.6 mhl) 2021 wine production was 12% lower than 2020. All the other main wine producing countries in EU, however, saw wine production grow. Portuguese wine production was up 14% to 7.3mhl: marking the highest recorded production for the country since 2006. Romania grew volumes 16%, Austria 3% and Greece 6%.

Further afield, Georgia reached a record high of 2.1mhl, up 17% thanks to an exceptionally high grape yield.  

In Asia, China’s wine production level in 2021 is expected to decline for the fifth year in a row and is estimated to reach a level of 5.9 mhl.

“This level marks a reduction of 10% compared to its 2020 level. It is the consequence, among other factors, of China’s reducing demand, as well as certain structural  problems  such  as  difficult  climate conditions, technological constraints, and overall low productivity of the sector,”​ notes the OIV. “This is perhaps a signal that the future of China’s wine sector might not be as favourable as anticipated by many international observers in the previous years.”

In North America, 2021 production is estimated at 24.1 mhl, 3% lower than its five-year average due to droughts in certain areas. However, this figure is 6% higher than its production level of 2020 that was impacted by wildfires and smoke taint, as well as by a response to mitigate an oversupply of grapes.

Southern hemisphere rebounds from 2020

The wine production estimate for the Southern Hemisphere in 2021 is a record-high 59 mhl, up 19% compared to 2020.

“In the Southern Hemisphere, after a strong decline in wine production in 2020 caused by unfavourable climatic conditions, 2021 has witnessed a sharp increase among all major producing countries," ​notes the OIV.

“In South America, given the low production levels in 2020 and the favourable climatic conditions of 2021, wine production has grown positively in 2021 overall. After 2 years of declining production levels caused by the impact of El Niño, Chile’s vinified production in 2021 has amounted to 13.4 mhl, a volume that is not only 30% higher than 2020 but also represents the largest production ever recorded in the country.

“Argentina, likewise, records an increase in its wine production in 2021. With a production of 12.5 mhl, it witnesses an increase of 16% compared to 2020 and +5% in comparison to its five-year average.

“Brazil sees a boom in its wine production in 2021, with a level of 3.6 mhl (+60% / 2020). This is it the largest volume recorded since 2008.”

South Africa’s 2021 wine production was 10.6 mhl, an increase of 2% compared to its 2020 level. The 2021 volume is back to the average production levels recorded before the beginning of drought conditions  in  2016,  that  heavily  impacted  the country’s wine production for several years in a row.

Australia, after a very low production in 2020 due to dry conditions, fires, and smoke damage in some wine regions, produced 14.2 mhl of wine in 2021: up 30% on 2020. This level is 14% above  its  last-five-year  average  and  represents the largest production since 2005. On the flip side, New Zealand, after a record-high production in 2020, declined 19% in 2021 to 2.7mhl due to unfavourable weather conditions in spring.

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