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China is world's biggest red wine consumer

China has become the world’s biggest red wine consuming nation according to new data published in the run up to the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong this May.

The disclosure knocks France and Italy – previous leaders – into second and third places for the consumption of red wine

The research commissioned by Vinexpo from IWSR, reveals the strategic importance of the dynamic Chinese market to European winemakers. Wine drinkers in China and Hong Kong consumed 1.865 billion bottles of red wine in 2013 (155 million 9-litre cases). This is an increase of 136% over the last five years, making China the world’s largest red wine market.

By contrast, French consumption of red wine reached 150 million cases last year while Italian consumption reached 141 million cases.

Chinese consumers have become increasingly attracted to red wine since 2005. The research shows that between 2007 and 2012, red wine consumption increased by an average of 27% annually though consumption slowed by just over 2% in 2013. By contrast wine drinking decreased by 5.8% in Italy and 18% in France.

Total wine consumption in China – red, white and rosé – is estimated to have reached 160 9-litre cases in 2013. More than 80% of the wines consumed in China are made from grapes grown in that country which is now the fifth largest wine producer in the world. While the rate of growth slowed by just over 2% in 2013, growth is expected to rise again in the run up to 2017 when total Chinese wine consumption should reach 230 million 9-litre cases.

The slow down affected home-produced wines rather than imported wines. Imported wines are rapidly gaining market share. Between 2007 and 2013, wine imports grew 700% and account for 18.8% of all wine consumed in China today.

The symbolic value of red
Apart from red wine’s virtues with regard to health, which have been widely lauded as an alternative to the impact of excessive consumption of rice-based spirits, the popularity of red wine is largely due to the symbolic importance of its colour.

Red is a very positive hue in Chinese culture, associated with wealth, power and good luck. In business circles, these three values are fundamental. Red wine is therefore an obvious choice for business hospitality, where partners can drink to each others’ health. Red is also the national colour of China.

Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo, said: “The growing consumption of red wine in China underlines the strategic importance of that country to wine makers in Europe and also to major wine trading nations such as the UK which has a leading world position as wine merchants, importers and exporters.”

A record 1,300 wines and spirits companies from more than 28 countries will be exhibiting at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific when the three-day Hong Kong exhibition opens its doors from May 27-29, and later this year, a new exhibition for the Japanese wine and spirits trade – Vinexpo Nippon – will be held in Tokyo on November 1-2.

11 February 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor