China drinking more and more imported wine - so long as it's 'French'

The rapid growth of the Chinese wine industry has other more traditional markets looking on in envy but when it comes to imports, it seems the nation has become obsessed with one source and one source only - France.

According to the French trade commission Ubifrance (WEB), imports of French wines hold a 50 per cent share of the Chinese market and accounted for more than 200 million euros last year.

And while domestically produced wine still accounts for 90 percent of the wine drunk, the fact that the market in China is growing at an astonishing rate means there is still plenty of sales to go around.

An International Wine and Spirits Research (WEB) report claimed the Chinese market had expanded by 100 per cent in the years between 2005 and 2009 and would continue to expand by around 20 percent until 2014.

In layman's terms, that accounts for around 125 million cases of wine in total -- and last year French still, light wine alone accounted for more than 4.5 million nine-liter cases sold on the mainland, double the imports from any other market.

Incredibly, as recent ago as 2003, French imports did not even make it into the top 20 in China, according to IWSC.

Overall, consumption of wine in China had now reached one bottle per year per person -- which might not sound like much until you realize it accounted for 1.34 billion bottles. And that's double what it was five years ago.

And while sales of French wines in China are set to continue to climb, some have questioned the nation's "French-only" mentality.

"Chinese customers come in and immediately ask if our wine is French-made. They are stupid. France has a lot of s**t wine,'' Mary Wang Xun, brand manager for China Wine Platform, a wine importer supplying distributors from Shanghai to Lhasa, told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

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