The Australian wine lake has found a new outlet: the Chinese middle class.

Australian wine exports to China soared by 482% to 11.75m litres over the past year, according to just-released statistics.

According to the Australian Wine & Brandy Corp (AWBC), sales growth rose mostly in the discount or bulk end of the market, with the average price per litre of wine sold declining by 63.9% to AUS$1.75.

The Chinese market is very small compared to Australia’s largest export market, the UK – where Australia commands almost 25% of the market – but AWBC corporate affairs manager Eric Wisgard said winemakers were encouraged by a recent reduction on tariffs on wine sold in China, from 65% to 14%, and by rising Chinese affluence.

‘There’s a growing middle class, and there is quite a move to adopt Western symbols of success,’ Wisgard told The Australian.

‘They’re looking for international brand names and other signs of Western-style affluence, and wine fits into that quite comfortably.’

Consumption per head in China has doubled in the last five years, although annual consumption per head is very low at 0.3 litres per person, compared with 25 to 26 litres per person in Australia.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos