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China to become biggest Bordeaux importer

As further indication of Bordeaux’s increasing dependence on the Asian market, China – when taken together with Hong Kong – is due to overtake Germany as the largest volume importer of the Bordeaux wines.

China alone became the largest value importer outside of the EU in May 2010, and when taken together with Hong Kong is due to overtake the UK for value of imports.

Jean-Pierre Rousseau of negociant Diva reported this week that over 50% of his business now takes place in Asia.

The proprietor of a key St Emilion property told Decanter.com that 60% of his sales are in the Far East, and it is estimated by sources in Bordeaux that the First Growths sell a similar percentage of their wines to China and Hong Kong.

From November 2009 to October 2010, China and Hong Kong together imported wine worth €333m.

This represented a value increase of 98% for China and of 126% for Hong Kong. The UK, to October 2010, imported wine to a value of €221m.

Overall, Bordeaux exports rose 10% year-on-year to 1.68m hectolitres and €1.3bn (a rise of 7% from 2009).

The majority of Bordeaux wines (around 60%) remain within France, but these export figures reveal again how quickly the traditional markets for Bordeaux wine are giving way to those in Asia.

Thomas Jullien, Hong Kong representative of Bordeaux trade body the CIVB told Decanter.com that the figures are typical for any developing market.

‘Early on, the focus is high end, classified growths, and entry level wines, then as the market grows and reaches maturity, the intermediate level begins to fill out, which is what we are seeing at the moment with mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.’

Despite concerns that Bordeaux is becoming over-reliant on a single market, Jullien pointed out that it is France, not China, that takes the vast majority of Bordeaux wines.

‘Overall production of Bordeaux wines to China stands at around 5%, while 60% goes to France. If we worry about over-reliance on one market, it should not be China, particularly when you look at the depth of the Chinese market, and the growth rate of its economy.

‘If you take a longer-term view, you see that high-end Bordeaux wines have always been sought-after by emerging economies – that has been the long-term history of the Bordeaux wine trade.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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