Culture Institutions

Vatican City consumes more wine per capita than any other country

Wine being poured.
Wine being poured.

Photo courtesy of lenetstan via Shutterstock

Wine being poured.

ROME (RNS) Tiny Vatican City consumes more wine per capita than any other country in the world, according to information from the California-based Wine Institute.

According to the Wine Institute’s latest statistics, the Vatican consumed 74 liters of wine per person, around double the per-capita consumption of Italy as a whole. A standard bottle of wine is about .75 liters.

And while some of that consumption is clearly related to ceremonial Communion wine, Italian press reports say it’s more likely because Vatican residents are older (the lack of children are figured into the statistics), are overwhelmingly male, are highly educated and tend to eat communally — all factors that tend to lead toward higher wine consumption.

Another factor: the Vatican’s small size that makes it easy for per-capita figures to be distorted by the activities of a small group, or in the case of the Vatican, a single supermarket that sells wines almost tax-free.

Other microstates, including Andorra (46 liters per person) and the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Canada (44 liters per capita), still fall far short of Vatican levels. Luxembourg, another small country — though with a population of 535,000 that’s many times larger than the Vatican’s estimated population of 800 — is No. 2 on the list, with a per capita consumption of around 56 liters per year.

Among big countries, France and Italy lead the way, each with little more than half the per-capita consumption of the Holy See.


About the author

Eric J. Lyman


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  • Can anyone confirm that wine is never offered to those in attendance for papal masses. Of course, wine is blessed at the altar and offered to those who serve the Pope at the altar.

  • I have attended Mass at various places in the Vatican on many occaisons over the last 30 years and never remember having the option to drink wine from a chalice at communion.

    Besides the use of wine for the many Masses said daily in the Vatican there is another explaination for the high wine sales. The authors seem to inappropriately assume that all the wine bought there is also consumed by the Vatican’s ca. 850 residents. Over 3000 people work there who are not residents but are eligible to shop at the store which is considerably less expensive than in Rome. Similarly much of the heavily discounted gasoline bought there is “consumed” elsewhere.

  • “Among big countries, France and Italy lead the way, each with little more than half the per-capita consumption of the Holy See.” Reporter Eric Lyman makes a common mistake (although as a religion writer he should know better). “Vatican City” and “the Holy See” are not the same thing. Vatican City is the political/geographic entity that is the subject of the study being reported here. The Holy See is the administrative apparatus of the Catholic Church, which is located *in* Vatican City.

  • Good job, Anthony. Per capita consumption in the Vatican is bound to be skewed by the tiny number of people who are actually resident-citizens of the Vatican city-state. And, notably, RNS (Religion News Service) has read the Wine Institute’s figures incorrectly. Wine consumption in the Vatican was 62 litres per person in 2011, down by some 16% from the 74 litres consumed in 2008 and reported, incorrectly, as the Wine Institute’s “latest figures.” And by the way, why would RNS be so interested in so odd a factoid as wine consumption in the Vatican? Are we on a hunt for booze heads among the Catholic Church’s leadership?

  • The Code of Canon Law states Communion be give under one species, the species of bread. To receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ under the species of wine is an “indult,” of that Code in Canon Law, given only to the United States USCCB and some other countries. So, the Holy See is basically following its own norm given in the CIC of receiving Our Lord only under the species of bread when distributing Communion to the lay faithful.

  • That is not what canon 925 says:
    ‘Holy communion is to be given under the species of bread alone, OR, in accordance with the liturgical laws, under bother species, OR, in case of necessity, even under the species of wine alone.’
    The last ‘necessity’ is not uncommon. All of this is understood under Canon 18. You are referring to restrictions: Canon Law requires very good reasons for being restrictive.

  • The key word there is “or.” You can’t ignore the first twelve words of the canon because of the “or.” The “in accordance with liturgical laws” refers to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal nos.240-252, where it says,”241. For the faithful who take part in the rite or are present at it, pastors should take care to call to mind as clearly as possible Catholic teaching according to the Council of Trent on the manner of communion. Above all they should instruct the people that according to Catholic faith Christ, whole and entire, as well as the true sacrament are received even under one kind only; that, therefore, as far as the effects are concerned, those who receive in this manner are not deprived of any grace necessary for salvation.[69] ” Hence, the “Romanitas” of the situation is that Rome still prefers 1917 CIC 852 and that is fully reflected in CIC 925 and the practice of Romanitas in Rome.

  • And let’s not forget the official and private guests who are invited on a regular basis. I have over the last 30 years done my bit to push up these statistics and never had more than two glasses with dinner.

  • “…or in the case of the Vatican, a single supermarket that sells wines almost tax-free.”

    Can Romans go to the Vatican supermarket and make their purchases of wine? Do Vatican employees buy almost tax-free wine for friends?