In the previous articles in this series we looked at the world’s vineyard surface area and world wine production in 2020. Now, let’s take a look at how wine producing countries perform in terms of productivity, in other words, how much wine they manage to produce in relation to their planted vineyard acreage. Another way to look at this is to say “what is the average yield in a country?”
The series on the wine industry in 2020:
This is our own back-of-the-envelope calculation based on the figures from the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine). There are many factors influencing these numbers, and doing rough estimates like we do here will only give you a very approximate picture. But it’s still an interesting view.
The two items, productivity and yield, are more or less the same measure but the different wordings shine different lights on the issue. High productivity would normally be considered good, but high yields are often considered bad (in conventional wine wisdom), but the two can be seen as the same thing.
A further complication is the definition.
“Yield” is quite unambiguous. It is usually expressed as hectolitres per hectare (in some cases expressed in other units: quintales per hectare, tonnes per acre etc).
“Productivity” on the other hand can be interpreted in different way. The OECD says “Productivity is commonly defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs” and with hectares as the volume of input this is then yield. There are alternative definitions but I will limit myself to the yield definition.
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The dotted red line in the charts indicate the world average of 47 hl/ha.
# – indicates estimate by OIV
$ – indicates that “vineyards for other use than wine” have been extracted from the acreage based on BKWine estimate (See the article on vineyard surface area.)
The above charts are thus a very rough estimate of average yields (or productivity) in most of the main wine producing countries. For China and for World, I have used the estimate of its wine producing vineyard acreage that I did in the section in vineyard acreage. Keep in mind that also for some of the other countries a portion of the grapes may be used for other products than wine. But I don’t think the numbers are very far off.
Please note that this only includes the bigger countries, the top 19 in production volume.
Some comments and conclusions that to a large extend are simple hypothesis and that would need further research to be verified:
High yielding countries:
- 85 hl/ha, at the top, with yields at 80% above world average.
- A bit of a surprise. When you travel in South Africa you don’t get this impression. Vineyards generally look as if they would give normal to low yields compared to vineyards in Europe. But apparently there are still large areas giving very high yields. This is probably due to the big production of brandy and of bulk wine.
- 83 hl/ha, 75% above world average, the second highest yielding country
- A very large portion of the New Zealand wine production is sauvignon, typically very high yielding
- 82 hl/ha, 73% above average. The third highest yield country
- Well-known to be a country with high yields. It is dominated by white wine, which support high yields better.
- 75 hl/ha, 58% above average
- Even if the US is famous for rare and expensive wines from some of its regions there is no doubt large areas of intensive grape production for mass-produced wine. Consider, for example, that it is home to Gallo, the world’s largest wine producer. In the coming years this may change as availability of water for irrigation is becoming an issue. If, in the future, vineyards are less irrigated, yields may decrease.
- 73 hl/ha, 54% above average
- It has for a long time been a country where parts of the industry is an industrial type of wine production for bulk wine.
- Italy: 68 hl/ha, 44% above average
- France: 58 hl/ha and 24% above average
- Both countries do have a significant bulk and entry-level production (usually based on high yields). Both countries also have in general modern and intensive production. Italy’s very big volumes of (high yielding) prosecco and pinot grigio may be an explanation for the difference, as well as a bigger part of bulk.
Low yield countries
Romania, Brazil, Georgia, Hungary, Greece:
- Several of the low-yield countries are countries that have a poorly developed wine sector with old-style vineyards (e.g. in the ex-Soviet Union) and/or are in climates that naturally restrict yields (notably Greece). In some cases a significant amount of the grapes is probably used for home winemaking (Romania, Georgia) which doesn’t show in the wine production statistics.
- 33 hl/ha, 30% below average
- This is probably a reflection of that the wine industry in many parts of Portugal has not yet quite caught up with the modern era in viticulture and vinification.
- 35 hl/ha, 27% below average
- A bit of a surprise, or maybe not. When you travel in China and visit vineyards almost all – actually really all – wineries are impressive, modern, latest technology and often big. So one would think that it would be a country with high productivity/yields. But when you then go for a walk in the vineyards you can see that the viticultural level is often not as high as the technological one in the cellars. And it does not have a very good climate for wine production.
- 42 hl/ha, slightly below average (-10%)
- I don’t have the historical figures but I would guess that the yields have moved up substantially both because irrigation is now more widely used and more modern technology is used.
Average yield countries
Argentina and Chile:
- Both almost exactly at world average yields, +6% and +5% respectively, compared to world average
- It is perhaps surprising to see Argentina and Chile at lower yields than France and Italy since the two South American countries are often – in the minds of many people – associated with bulk wine. Today they do make excellent high-quality wines.
- +6% compared to world average
- Also very close to world average, -3%, compared to world average
As I mentioned, this is a very rough calculation and some personal hypothesis. But it does illustrate some interesting aspects of the wine business.