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Surge in imports into China as consumers look beyond France

Wine imports into China reached record levels in 2011, while there is evidence that the Chinese demand for imported wine is continuing to diversify.

According to figures released at the first China Worldwide Wine Summit in March, China imported US$1.27bn of bottled wine in 2011, a 94% increase from 2010.

The surge in imports was not dominated by French wine: statistics released at the forum show a large increase in the value of Chilean and Greek wine imports.

Greece ‘exported a record €2m of wine to China in 2011’, Greek ambassador to China Theodoros Georgakelos said at the forum in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province.

Jenny Li, research manager for analysts Wine Intelligence, said the Chinese market for imported wine was continuing to mature at a rapid rate, with demand for New World wines and less established wine regions fuelled by the rising number of urban professionals in their 20s and 30s.

‘This key consumer group sees imported wine as part of their daily beverage repertoire and feel wine is a healthier alcoholic drink. Crucially, they are adventurous consumers open to wines from various countries and regions with new styles and flavours,’ Li told Decanter.com.

She suggested the discrepancy between the wines that are available and the styles that the Chinese prefer to drink is being closed.

‘There is a misunderstanding between what they drink and what they actually like. Cabernet Sauvignon for a long time was the only available grape variety in the market, but this doesn’t reflect the fact that many Chinese consumers prefer wines that are more fruity and less tannic.’

She said anecdotal evidence from the trade suggested consumers prefer wines like Asti, Muscat and Riesling, ‘as well as a strong interest in ice wine’.

Wine Intelligence research shows that New Zealand wine has also found increasing favour with Chinese consumers, with a 65% increase in market share, admittedly off a very small base. According to figures from New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the country exported some 10,000 cases of wine to China in 2009, double the figure for 2008.

‘The Chinese wine trade see some of the boutique fine wines from New Zealand as a perfect alternative to the sometimes overpriced French fine wines’, Li said.

Written by James Lawrence

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