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Drink up, stock up: A global wine shortage is looming, report says

Shelves of wine at an Ontario LCBO store.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The end may be near. This poor old world has survived wars, economic disasters and the breakup of both The Beatles and the Jonas Brothers, but could we ever survive a global wine shortage?

And it's coming. BBC reports that the world is facing a catastrophic wine shortage in the very near future. And in case you hadn't noticed, demand is already exceeding supply.

According to new research from the U.S. financial-services firm Morgan Stanley, the global demand for wine exceeded supply by 300-million cases in 2012. That was last year, in case you misplaced your calendar.

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The Morgan Stanley report warns that the current wine crisis is "the deepest shortfall in over 40 years of records." Not coincidentally, wine production last year dropped to its lowest levels in more than four decades Apparently, production of wine on a global scale has been sliding steadily since it peaked in 2004, when wine supply outdistanced demand by more than 600-million cases.

At present, global wine consumption stands at around three-billion cases each year and there are slightly more than one-million wine producers worldwide. Your oddball cousin who makes his own dreadful homemade wine doesn't factor into that number.

But the Morgan Stanley report warns those numbers are going to change drastically. In the short term, "inventories will likely be reduced as current consumption continues to be predominantly supplied by previous vintages."

And at the current rate that the human race keeps knocking back the wine, eventually, inevitably, wine consumption will reach the 2012 vintage. At that point, the experts "expect the current production shortfall to culminate in a significant increase in export demand, and higher prices for exports globally."

A big part of the problem is being credited to "plummeting production" of wine in Europe, which has seen a sustained period of bad wine-growing weather in recent years.

Total wine production in Europe dropped by roughly 10 per cent last year and by 25 per cent since its peak in 2004.

However, not all wine comes from Europe, of course. Production in such "new world" countries, including the United States, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand, has been on a steady upswing for the past decade.

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Notes the report: "With tightening conditions in Europe, the major new world exporters stand to benefit most from increasing demand on global export markets."

Who's going to feel the pinch of the wine shortage the most? Going by the numbers, it could be France, which still reigns as the world's largest consumers of wine, accounting for 12 per cent of the global total.

In fact, France is actually tied for wine consumption with the U.S., which also accounts for 12 per cent, which leaves roughly 74 per cent for the rest of us, and that number is only going to decline.

You might want to think about being nicer to that winemaking cousin.

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