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Asian wine drinkers offer hope for the world's vintners

Asian wine drinkers offer hope for the world's vintners
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China’s drinking habits are bringing cheer to the world’s winemakers – as evidenced by the big turnout at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair.

One thousand exhibitors from over 40 countries were there, eager to tap into China’s rapidly growing wine market. By 2016 the country is set to be the largest wine consumer in the world.

Patrick Festl, Business Development Manager with Hong Kong-based Schmidt Vinothek, isn’t sure how it will grow, but knows it will: “For which market segment I think it might be a bit too early to say at this stage, but the market is definitely growing. Wine is becoming more accessible to a larger amount of people. And I mean, just purely a numbers game, we’ve 1.3 billion people up there. And they like wine.”

China’s domestic production has increased fourfold in the last decade to meet demand, but the imported market in China has long been dominated by France with close to half the bottles sold in the first half of this year (46.7 percent), followed by Australia (12.7 percent) and with Spain also making a strong showing (11.3 percent).

Chinese government figures show Spain enjoyed the biggest year on year rise in the first half of 2013 – up 40.3 percent.

Jose Maria Nieves, Export Director for the Spanish winemakers Bodegas Julian Chivite, ascribed that to developing palates: “People buy the French wines by image, but little by little, the consumer is learning. They start to have more knowledge about wines and they realise that Spanish wines have very good quality, also very good price.”

Chinese wine consumption has doubled twice in the last five years and, as everywhere in the world, the rich drink more wine and the Chinese are getting richer – which is why winemakers are eager to tap into the Asian market.