Bottle, bag-in-box, bulk, sparkling, which country exported what in 2020? And trends

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It is interesting to look at in what kind of “container” wine is exported: bottle, bag-in-box, or bulk. This gives quite a clear indication of the price and quality level of the wines. A country exporting a large portion in bulk is probably getting little money for its wines etc. Wine exports is tracked closely by customs authorities. International trade is declared by custom codes. This makes it easy to track this. On top of that, sparkling wine is declared separately (although it is, of course, mainly in bottle). So let’s look at how different countries exports’ are split on bottle, bag-in-box, bulk and sparkling.

Get ready to make a deep dive into wine export statistics.

Read all our articles in the Wine Global 2020 series here:

Source: The data presented in this article come from the OIV, The International Organisation of Vine and Wine. Commentary and analysis is BKWine’s.

A lorry with tanks to transport wine at Barros in Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, in the Douro, Portugal
A lorry with tanks to transport wine at Barros in Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, in the Douro, Portugal, copyright BKWine Photography

World exports by type of packaging in 2020: price pressure is obvious

We can see a very clear illustration of the downward pressure on price on world wine exports in 2020 by looking at the type of “packaging” used. We now have four categories in the trading statistics (bib was introduced a few years back):

  • Bottles, less than 2 litres containers
  • Sparkling wine
  • Bib, bag in box, containers between 2 litres and 10 litres
  • Bulk, containers above 10 litres

Bottled wine and sparkling wine fell. Sparkling wine saw a big fall of -15% in value in 2020.

Bottles are still by far the most popular container, if we include bubbly wine in the bottle category then bottles represent 62% of all exports in volume and 89% of exports in value.

Bottled wine (excluding sparkling) fell in volume by 2% and fell in value by 6%. This is the first time since 2000 that exports of bottle wine has fallen in value. Keep in mind that exports have been steadily growing over this period (see the overview of wine exports 2000-2020 here).  

Bag in box increased its share although the numbers are still modest, 4% of world exports in volume and 2% in value. Bib grew by 12% in volume and 8% in value. Bag in box is by far the most successful category in 2020.

Bulk remained stable in volume but grew in value with 4%. By volume, 34% of all wine is exported in bulk, by value 9%. The average export price for bulk wine has increased!

Looking at it from a consumer point of view, one can assume that much of the 34% (volume) of bulk of total exports will end up on shop shelves in bag-in-box, passing through local “bottling” facilities (boxing facilities?) in the country of consumption, or a transit country. But this is just a guess. Maybe local bottling in bottles is also common. If we make that assumption (bulk mainly boxed at destination but also to some extent bottled), then around a third of all wine is sold to the consumer in bag-in-box.

Wine exports by type of packaging 2020 (“vertical structure”)

International trade in wine: exports 2000-2020 by category
International trade in wine: exports 2000-2020 by category

Wine exports 2020, split by “packaging” type

Volume 2020Value 2020Chg volumeChg value
Bottled (< 2 l)53%70%-2%-6%
Bulk (> 10 l)34%9%0%4%

The biggest exporter for each packaging/wine type, by volume

The picture below shows you the ten biggest exporters measured in volume (you can read more about the wine export ranking here), and how each country is split by packaging/wine type.

The top exporters of bottled wine (still wine only), in volume:

  1. Italy
  2. France
  3. Spain

No surprise here. Italy being the biggest exporter in total it is also biggest in bottle exports, followed by France and Spain, as in the global wine production ranking for 2020.

The biggest exporters of sparkling wine, volume:

  1. Italy
  2. France
  3. Spain

Again, no big surprise here. The huge volumes of prosecco has secured Italy the top spot for sparkling wine exports.

The biggest exporters of bag-in-box wine, by volume:

  1. Germany
  2. Italy
  3. Spain

That Germany grabs the top spot for bag-in-box wine is certainly a surprise to me. I don’t see German wines so much in BiB. But maybe much of this is not German wine. If instead it is “foreign” wine, imported in bulk and then re-exported in bag-in-box it would show up here. Could that be the case? Considering the BiB-gulping Scandinavian markets are close, this is perhaps the explanation if a large part of the bib:s cracked open in Scandinavia is boxed in Germany. One would have to look closer to see if this is true or not.

The biggest exporters of bulk wine, volume:

  1. Spain
  2. Australia
  3. Italy

No surprises here. Spain is suffering from a long history of exporting cheap bulk, and there is a lot of industrial wine production in Australia.

Wine exports measured in volume 2020, by category (bottle, bib, sparkling, bulk) and by country
Wine exports measured in volume 2020, by category (bottle, bib, sparkling, bulk) and by country

The biggest exporter for each packaging/wine type, by value

The picture below shows you the ten biggest exporters measured in value, and how each country is split by packaging/wine type.

The top exporters of bottled wine (still wine only), in value:

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Spain

Compared to the volume ranking above, France moves up to first place and pushes Italy down to second, thanks to the high prices achieved on some of the French wines.

The biggest exporters of sparkling wine, value:

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Spain

The same thing happens for sparkling: In spite of Italy exporting much larger volumes, France takes the top spot in value thanks to the huge price premiums that champagne gets, especially on export. No other country comes close to these three countries for sparkling wine (and Spain is already far behind the two leaders).

The biggest exporters of bag-in-box wine, value:

  1. Spain
  2. Australia
  3. New Zealand

For some it may come as a surprise that New Zealand is one of the top three for bag-in-box, but they do have a significant, and highly paid, bib export. But the greater surprise is perhaps Spain. In value, it climes from third place to the top spot. This means that Spain is actually getting better prices for BiB than many others. One small bright spot for Spanish exports. The same goes for Australia that was not in the top three spots for volume. The other thing to note: apparently Germany is getting very poorly paid for its BiBs. It is the biggest B-i-B exporter in volume but does not even make it to the three top spots in value.

The biggest exporters of bulk wine, value:

  1. Italy
  2. Spain
  3. France

Here again, France gains positions thanks to its generally premium prices. It was not in the top three in volume. The same goes for Italy that overtakes Spain. So, Spain loses the top spot due to the low prices for its bulk wines. Australia drops out of the top three positions, so also, apparently, is getting low prices for its bulk wine.

Wine exports measured in value, 2020, by category (bottle, bib, sparkling, bulk) and by country
Wine exports measured in value, 2020, by category (bottle, bib, sparkling, bulk) and by country

Wine exports split by packaging type, by volume, for each country

Let’s now take a look in more detail of what kind of exports the different countries have. Here you have country-by-country numbers of how each country’s exports are divided up into different “packaging” (or customs code): bottle (under 2 litres), sparkling, bib (under 10 litres), and bulk. So the numbers and rankings here are based on the relative importance of each packaging for each country. It is NOT exports in absolute numbers. In other words, looking at the table below, it is the relative split of each country’s line. So, for each country, the numbers in the table add up to 100% for each row (the last two columns excluded).

These numbers can give you a better understanding of each country’s trading profile and export structure.

Wine exports split by “container”, measured in volume, 2020, by country

# vol# valBtl, vol, 20Sparkl, vol 20Bib, vol, 20Bulk, vol, 20|Btl+sparklBib+bulk
117New Zealand54%1%1%44%|55%45%
811South Africa41%1%11%43%|42%54%

#vol and #val signifies the country’s world rank in export volume and in value.

Remember: you can sort the tables on the different columns.

Top relative portion of bottled wine exports, volume:

  1. Portugal
  2. Germany
  3. France

Portugal exports the biggest portion of its wines in bottle relative to total exports: 81% of Portuguese exports are shipped in bottle.

Germany comes second with 73%. They are small countries with little bulk production.

In third place we have France, yet again benefiting from its position as a prestige wine country.

Top relative portion of sparkling wine exporters, volume:

  1. Italy
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. Spain

Italy is by far the country with the biggest portion of sparkling wine on export, as a percentage of its total exports, riding of the wave of the exploitation of prosecco’s popularity. An impressive 20% of Italian exports are sparkling wine.

It is far ahead of number two, France, who’s export is 13% sparkling. Remember that half of all champagne is consumed in France and much less champagne is produced than prosecco.

Germany (sekt) and Spain (cava), both at 8% of exports sparkling, follow a long way behind.

All the other countries are almost insignificant when it comes to sparkling volume on export. A development potential for some of these countries these days when sparkling wines seem unstoppable? Certainly for e.g. South Africa that makes excellent MCC with the traditional method.

You can read more about the world market for sparkling wines in this previous article.

“Bottle” + sparkling = “all bottled export”, volume

  1. France
  2. Portugal
  3. Germany

Since (almost) all sparkling export is in bottle, it is interesting to look at the sum of bottled exports plus sparkling.

For bottled plus sparkling France shoots up to top position, overtaking both Germany and Portugal, thanks again partially to champagne (and crémant) with 84% of its exports in bottle (still+sparkling). It is followed by Portugal (82%) and Germany (81%).

Bag-in-box + bulk wine export, volume

Let’s look at bag-in-box exports and bulk together and then see how it’s split. Both categories contain similar types of wine, mostly cheap or cheapish and towards entry-level, very little premium. Up until recently the two categories were also grouped together in the trade statistics (the bib category was created in 2017, with a new customs code).

  1. USA
  2. Australia
  3. Spain

Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me) the USA has the biggest share of its exports as bib+bulk with a whopping 65% of its exports in this category. But very little of it is in bib, almost all in “pure” bulk. Curious. I am wondering where all these bulk wines go. A quick search reveals that the main destination of wine exports from United States are: Canada (by far the biggest), United Kingdom, Japan (far behind), Hong Kong, and Denmark (!?). Source: Could it be that much of the US bulk export goes to Canada and is then bottled and labelled with the rather deceptive denominations “Cellared in Canada” or “Product of Canada”?

It is followed by Australia, at 57% of its exports in bib+bulk, a well-known bulk wine producer on its vast plains. Not much is in bib though (6%), which is curious, considering that the bag-in-box packaging for wine is an Australian invention. Perhaps it has to do with the boat shipping that favours bulk?

Number three is Spain, also well-known for its big portion of bulk at 56%. Also with a low proportion of bib. Spain suffers from very low export prices (comes naturally with a focus on bulk). See more further down in this article on that. Perhaps one step forward could be to do more domestic packaging in bib, rather than sending it all in tanker trucks north to be bottled/bib:ed in another country?

Number four of the countries with a big share of bib/bulk exporter is South Africa, 54%. Contrary to the previous ones, South Africa has a relatively significant portion exported in bib, 11% of exports (compared to 43% in bulk). A guess is that a significant part of those 11% goes to Sweden. To be verified.

One surprising line in the table (I’ve said this before) is New Zealand. It has a fairly high proportion of bulk exports, 44% (only 1% bib). This is surprising since New Zealand is one of the countries with the highest export values (prices) per litre. So even though they sell quite a lot in bulk, they manage to get good prices for it.

Unsurprisingly, France has the lowest proportion of bib+bulk on export, only 17%.

The two odd ones out on this list are Germany and Portugal. They have little bib+bulk export, but contrary to the other countries, the majority is in bib rather than bulk.

Bag-in-box wine export, volume

  1. Germany
  2. South Africa
  3. Portugal

The top three countries in terms of portion of export in bib are Germany (17%), South Africa (11%), and Portugal (10%). My hunch is that South Africa sells a lot of this to the Nordics and that Germany’s high ranking here is actually due to their bottling plants: they import in bulk, pack it in Bib and then re-export to the Nordics and other bib-liking countries. To be verified. Portugal’s position here is a bit curious, 10% of exports in bib.

Bulk wine export, volume

  1. USA
  2. Spain
  3. Australia

Export in bulk (only): The top three countries in terms of portion of export in bulk are USA (63%), Spain (53%) and Australia (51%).

Wine exports split by packaging type, by value

How does this picture change if we instead look at the value? Here is how exports split up by packaging type, for each country, if we look at the export values.

Remember: we are looking at the split for each country on types of packaging, not total values, so for each country, what portion is exported in the different containers.

Wine exports split by “container”, measured in value, 2020, by country

# vol# valBtl, val, 20sparkl, val, 20Bib, val, 20Bulk, val, 20|Btl+sparklBib+bulk
117New Zealand71%1%1%27%|72%28%
811South Africa69%3%8%20%|72%28%

#vol and #val signifies world rank in export volume and in value.

Remember: you can sort the tables on the different columns.

Biggest portion of exports bottled, by value

  1. Portugal
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile

The country with the largest portion of its export in bottles, measured in value, is Portugal, 92% of exports are in bottle, measured in value, followed by Argentina (89%) and Chile (81%). It’s worth noting Argentina and Chile since they are often thought of as big bulk producers

Germany and France, that were in position two and three in volume, are pushed down to number four and number 10 (!!) respectively. But to interpret the French “bottom position” in the portion sold in bottle, only 64%, one has to remember that sparkling wine makes up 32% of exports. Again, the exceptionally high prices for champagne means we have to be very careful how to read French numbers.

Remember: This is the percentage of each country’s wine exports package in bottle. It is not a comparison of the size/value of the exports in absolute numbers.

Top sparkling wine exporters, portion of total exports, value

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Spain
  4. Germany

It is still the same quartet as for the volume – France, Italy, Spain, Germany – that has the highest share of sparkling wine. However, the order has changed.

France is on top, thanks to its high-priced champagnes (and Italy’s low-priced prosecco) at 32% of exports are sparkling, measured in value. It was 13% measured in volume. Clearly, the sparkling wines from France are much higher priced than other wines France sells on export.

Italy comes in second at 24% of exports as sparkling. It was 20% measured in volume so even if prosecco (the vast majority of the exported bubbles) typically is not very expensive, on average the Italian sparkling wines get higher prices than the still wines on export.

Spain has moved ahead of Germany (in volume they were tied at 8%). Spain is at 15% and Germany is at 10%. Apparently, much of the German sparkling exports are low-priced, although higher on average than still wines.

Bottle plus sparkling export, value

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Portugal

A whopping 96% of the French exports are in bottle, measured in the value of the exports, adding “bottle” plus sparkling together. It is followed by Italy (94%), Portugal (93%), Germany (91%) and Argentina (90%), all in the 90+% bracket. After that there’s a jump to Chile at 82%.

Bag-in-box wine exporters, value

  1. Germany
  2. South Africa
  3. Portugal

The countries that sells the biggest portion in bag-in-box measured in value is the trio Germany (9%), South Africa (8%) and Portugal (5%). This is the same ranking as for volume.

Bulk wine exporters, value

  1. New Zealand
  2. USA
  3. South Africa

The numbers for bulk exports also show clearly who manages to get good prices for their bulk wines.

Measured in value, New Zealand is top in the ranking for the portion of exports in bulk. Measured in volume, they were in fifth place.

USA has thus lost one position and moved down to number two.

South Africa has moved up to third place, from sixth in volume, so apparently they also get good prices for their bulk wine.

From the bottom, Germany, Portugal, France and Italy have a very low portion of exports (in value) in bulk.

One surprising things to note is perhaps Germany and Portugal: they are high in the ranking for bib exports but low for bulk.

This ranking is almost the same when you look at bib+bulk together, except that South Africa moves up ahead of the USA, on par with New Zealand.

How have exports-by-container changed 2019-2020?

How have each category changed from 2019 in the main countries?

First look at the volume side of the four categories.

Wine exports’ change 2019-2020 by “container”, measured in volume, by country

# vol# valchg, bottle, volchg sparkl, volchg bib, volchg bulk, vol
117New Zealand-1%118%59%26%
811South Africa-8%9%1%-18%

#vol and #val signifies the country’s world rank in export volume and in value.

Remember 1: you can sort the tables on the different columns.

Remember 2: these numbers refer to the change year-to-year in the exports for each category and country.

Exports of bottles, volume, change

The exports done in bottles have decreased in most countries, although not dramatically so. The USA did worst with a decrease of 14% in exports of bottled wine (excluding sparkling) and Germany was down 11%.

There are two exceptions: Portugal and Argentina. Portugal increased its exports sold in bottle by 7%, measured in volume, and Argentina’s bottle exports were up 5%.

Exports of sparkling, volume, change: falling dramatically

The news for sparkling wine in 2020 was, on the other hand, awful.

The exports of sparkling (in volume) has overall gone down quite a lot, as was obvious from the overall statistics.

There are a few exceptions. New Zealand has dramatically increased its sparkling exports, +118%, albeit from a fairly low level. Portugal and Germany also have slight increases.

Looking at the four major sparkling wine producers, the picture is bleak:

  • Italy: -2%
  • France: -13%
  • Spain: -5%
  • Germany: -11%

2020 was not a year for celebration.

Exports of bag-in-box, volume, change: growing much

Bag-in-box exports are gaining ground across the board. New Zealand, Spain, Italy and Chile have increased bib exports with between 24% and 59%. Very impressive growth figures.

The odd man out in bib exports is the USA, have, where it dropped by 24%.

Exports of bulk, volume, change: ups and downs

The picture for export in bulk, measured in volume, is very diverse.

Bulk exports shot up with 81% for Argentina, and for New Zealand it increased with 26%.

On the down side: Germany exported 32% less bulk than in 2019. Portugal, South Africa and Italy also saw important drops in bulk.

One might actually argue that a decline in the volume of bulk exports is a good thing. It can be seen as an indicator that the country is moving to more high-value products. Perhaps. And it’s certainly not good news for bulk exporters.

Exports-by-container, change in value 2019-2020

Let’s now look on the changes 2019-2020 measured in value.

Wine exports’ change 2019-2020 by “container”, measured in value, by country

# vol# valchg btl, valchg sparkl, valchg bib, valchg bulk val
117New Zealand-3%150%23%26%
811South Africa-10%-6%-3%-10%

#vol and #val signifies the country’s world rank in export volume and in value.

Remember 1: you can sort the tables on the different columns.

Remember 2: these numbers refer to the change year-to-year in the exports for each category and country.

Exports of bottles, value, change

All countries saw a fall in the value of the exports in bottle from 2019 to 2020. The biggest drop in the value of bottle exports were in Germany, the USA and South Africa.

There is one exception, Portugal increased the total value of its bottle exports albeit by only 3%. So Portugal did very well, increased both the volume and the value of its bottle wine exports.

Exports of sparkling wine, value, change

The picture is even more morose for sparkling wine, general drop in sparkling wine export value in 2020, just like for volume. The drop was even bigger than for still bottle wine.

The biggest drop was for Argentina, -38%, but Argentinian sparkling wine exports are really small so this drop is not that important (except for the concerned producers). The second biggest drop was for Germany, -27%, more important since sparkling wine is 10% of total export values in Germany. Third biggest drop is in Chile, but like for Argentina, sparkling is marginal on export.

The country where the drop in sparkling wine exports really hurts is in fourth place from the bottom: France. The value dropped with 19%. This is significant since almost a third (32%) of the French export value is in sparkling wine.

Italy’s more modestly priced sparkling wines dropped too but only a little (in comparison), -7%.

The big exception is New Zealand that saw its export value for sparkling shoot up 150%. It looks nice but sparkling exports is unfortunately a tiny segment for New Zealand.

So then we come to the categories where we see growth numbers instead of falling values, the “cheap wine” categories of bib and bulk.

Exports of bag-in-box, value, change

Most countries saw the value of bib exports grow, and some with quite impressive numbers. The biggest growths were in Portugal, Spain and New Zealand.

The USA saw a significant drop of bib export value.

Exports of bulk, value, change

For bulk, the picture is actually split on the plus side and the minus side.

The biggest growths in bulk export value were in Argentina, New Zealand, France and Australia. Also in this case, some of the growth numbers are impressive.

The biggest declines in bulk were in Portugal, Chile and South Africa.

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