Wine and the rugby world cup. Facts, speculation and two votes

Ancient gold wine cup, Georgia wine museum. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a considerable overlap between the major rugby-playing nations and the major wine-producing/drinking nations. Is there a correlation? How closely do they match up? We give you some inconsequential but moderately interesting statistics and ask some pointless questions, occasionally attempting an answer, before engaging you in some meaningless voting.

The twenty 2015 rugby world cup participants

Listed according to the official rankings (21 September 2015):

  1. New Zealand*
  2. Australia*
  3. England*
  4. Wales*
  5. Ireland
  6. South Africa*
  7. France*
  8. Argentina*
  9. Fiji
  10. Samoa
  11. Japan
  12. Scotland
  13. Georgia*
  14. Tonga
  15. Italy*
  16. USA*
  17. Romania*
  18. Canada*
  19. Uruguay*
  20. Namibia

An asterisk indicates that wine of substance is made in this country. “Substance” is defined arbitrarily but not wholly stupidly and we will fight anyone who disagrees. You may be surprised by Georgian, Uruguayan, English and Welsh wine.

The top twenty wine producers by volume in 2014

  1. France*
  2. Italy*
  3. Spain (rugby ranking: 21)
  4. USA*
  5. Argentina*
  6. Australia*
  7. China (rugby ranking: 67; Hong Kong: 24)
  8. South Africa*
  9. Chile (rugby ranking: 23)
  10. Germany (rugby ranking: 30)
  11. Portugal (rugby ranking: 29)
  12. Romania*
  13. New Zealand*
  14. Greece (rugby ranking: 93)
  15. Brazil (rugby ranking: 39)
  16. Hungary (rugby ranking: 68)
  17. Austria (rugby ranking: 83)
  18. Bulgaria (rugby ranking: 90)
  19. Switzerland (rugby ranking: 38)
  20. Croatia (rugby ranking: 53)

An asterisk indicates that the country is a RWC 2015 participant. Five of the top six producers are among the twenty world cup participants, while the other nation (Spain) is ranked twenty-first, just a ranking place away. Eight producers are in the list, and they’re all in the top thirteen. The non-RWC-playing nations also show a correlation between rugby prowess and viticultural fecundity; for the most part, the less copious producers are lower in the rankings.

The top ten wine consumers (by volume) in 2014

  1. USA*
  2. France*
  3. Italy*
  4. Germany (rugby ranking: 30)
  5. China/Hong Kong (rugby ranking: 67/24)
  6. UK*
  7. Argentina*
  8. Russia (rugby ranking: 22)
  9. Spain (rugby ranking: 21)
  10. Australia*

An asterisk indicates that the country is a RWC 2015 participant. The top three countries are all playing in the RWC, while five of the top seven are. In fact, the UK has three teams playing—Wales, Scotland and England—so make of that what you will. Those countries not playing in the RWC rank quite highly nonetheless, except for the People’s Republic of China, but they can draw upon Hong Kong to make up for it.

The top ten wine consumers (per capita) in 2014

  1. Italy*
  2. France*
  3. Switzerland (rugby ranking: 38)
  4. Portugal (rugby ranking: 29)
  5. Austria (rugby ranking: 83)
  6. Greece (rugby ranking: 93)
  7. Denmark (rugby ranking: 81)
  8. Germany (rugby ranking: 30)
  9. Argentina*
  10. Hungary (rugby ranking: 68)

An asterisk indicates that the country is a RWC 2015 participant. A relatively disappointing performance, though the top two spots are taken by RWC participants. It may be that a good deal of beer is also drunk in the rugby world.

The top 10 wine importing countries in 2014

  1. Germany (rugby ranking: 30)
  2. UK*
  3. USA*
  4. China/Hong Kong (rugby ranking: 67/24)
  5. Netherlands (rugby ranking: 33)
  6. Canada*
  7. Russia (rugby ranking: 22)
  8. Japan*
  9. Belgium/Luxembourg (rugby ranking: 26/65)
  10. Sweden (rugby ranking: 54)

An asterisk indicates that the country is a RWC 2015 participant. A respectable showing, especially if you consider that the UK has supplied three RWC teams, and these figures should also be viewed in light of the outstanding wine production of the rugby nations—some of the big producer nations don’t import much.


There’s a clear link between making wine and playing rugby well, but the data are less emphatic when it comes to drinking and importing wine; we suspect this reflects the broad tradition of drinking in rugby, with an emphasis on beer and sometimes spirits—not to mention aftershave, cooking oil and domestic cleaning products for the old school mob—in parallel to wine drinking.

Verdict: because of their emphasis on wine production (and the fact that their forwards appear to be the offspring of Gérard Depardieu and a she-minotaur), France will win the 2015 RWC.

Meaningless voting

Paul Fishman (Bristol, September 2015)

Fishman-bucketPaul is a freelance writer, editor and all-round ink-slinger; he’s also the managing editor of Alderman Lushington.

Website: Twitter: @fishmandeville

Image credits

Luciana Braz, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Other credits

The wine statistics were mostly lifted from two websites after ten minutes of diligent research: here and here. The information is quite interesting and we recommend you visit both sites.