Drink no wine before its time-at least this January

Men are like fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it’s up to a woman to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have at dinner.”

-Dave Barry

“I make wine at home. I make it out of raisins so it will be aged automatically.”

-Steven Wright

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know. In 2022, Italy produced almost 20% of all the wine consumed in the world. That amounted to 50 million hectoliters, or enough wine to fill 1,994 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

That same year, France produced about 46 million hectoliters of wine, or about 17% of the world’s wine total, and Italy took the bronze wine medal with just over 35 million hectoliters, or nearly 14% of the world’s wine production. If you’re keeping score, that means Italy, France and Spain together produced over half of the world’s wine in 2022.

The United States was a distant fourth with 22,385 hectoliters, or about 8 1/5 % of the worldwide wine market, which was nearly twice as much as was produced by fifth place Australia with 12,746 hectoliters, or about 5% of the world’s total, most of which was evidently produced in liter bottles with cute pictures of kangaroos on them.

After that, things get a little scary in the wine world. Russia and China each produced a bit more than 4,000 hectoliters, which together accounts for only about 3% of the world total, which explains why you’ve never heard about a lovely Russian chardonnay or an amusing Chinese merlot that goes great with Bejing duck.

Moldova staggered in at No. 20 with about 1/2% of the world’s wine production, or about 1,400 hectoliters. If my math is correct, and it has never been before and is unlikely to be so now, that much wine would fill about 20 Doughboy pools plus a koi pond.

It’s interesting to note that Japan and Peru both produced about the same amount of wine – just over 800 hectoliters each. Malta was the dregs among the top-ranked wine-producing nations in 2022, squeezing out only 13 hectoliters, or just 0.01 of the total.

I’m sure those statistics raised as many questions in your mind as they did in mine – but I have an excuse; I come from a long line of overthinkers. For example, does the lack of a robust wine industry account for Russia and China being the way they are? I hear many people fantasize about living in wine-soaked France, Italy or Spain, but have yet to hear anyone wax poetically on the joys of living in Russia or China.

And is a hectoliter a real thing? How many gallons of water are there in an Olympic-sized swimming pool? Is there such a thing as a World Cup-sized swimming pool, or a Little League World Series-sized swimming pool? Why do they call them “Doughboy” pools? (Actually I know the answer to that one – the company that makes them rebranded itself The Doughboys Plastics Division in honor of US soldiers returning from World War I who were affectionately known as “Hectoliters.” Just kidding. Actually, they were known as Moldavian Doughboys.

Wine has been on my mind these past few weeks, primarily because it has not been on my palate. Inspired by something I read on my cellphone, I committed to having an alcohol-free January. Part of my decision was based on health reasons, and part had to do with practicality; we all know it’s much harder to hold one’s liquor in the winter – I think that’s because of the mittens.

I’m more than halfway through the month, and while I miss some of the social aspects of having a drink, it’s turned out to be easier than I thought. For one thing, the selection and quality of non-alcoholic beers has improved greatly. I think I may prefer Guinness Zero to the real thing.

The quality of non-alcoholic wines still varies a great deal, but one thing I’ve learned this month is that if you drink anything from a wine glass it’s almost as satisfying as actual wine – especially if you’re comparing it to Russian or Chinese wine, or wine drank from a Doughboy. I had a glass of carrot juice in a wine glass, and it made me wonder why I’ve ever bothered to drink anything else. Admittedly it was a fine, triple-distilled Single-Bunch carrot juice, but well worth the extra cost.

Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a monthly humor column for this newspaper.