Chinese are drinking more Burgundy, French less

Although Brits, Americans and Belgians (in that order) are still the largest groups of foreign Burgundy drinkers, Asians are catching up.

China is currently the 14th largest export market for Burgundy and is expected to become the 12th largest soon, according to a study released jointly by the Burgundy Wine Board and the Hospices de Beaune on November 29.

More than 4 million Chinese people now belong to the middle class and drink imported wines at least once a year, of which 25 percent say they have already drunk Burgundy wine, the study says.

Half of Burgundy consumption in China and Hong Kong happens in bars, hotels and restaurants, while 30 percent is sold in supermarkets (mainly foreign chains) and in specialty delicatessens, which offer imported food and drink products.

In the first eight months of 2010, nearly 800,000 bottles of Burgundy went to greater China (Hong Kong and Taiwan) - up 70-90 percent from 2009. Japan is the largest importer of Burgundy in the region.

Burgundy's two traditional strongholds are still the US and the UK (which together account for one out of every two bottles of Burgundy sold globally).

The wine is still present in most American wine shops and on the menus of three out of five mid to high-end restaurants (where price per head is more than $30); but Americans are choosing cheaper wines, like those from Chile (which are five times cheaper to import than French wines), due to a slower economic recovery. 

In the UK more Brits would prefer to buy wine and drink it at home and are, at the same time, willing to splurge on quality - the number of people willing to spend over £7 (€8) on a bottle of wine to drink at home has increased by 30 percent. 

In the rest of Europe, gastronomic restaurants accounted for a substantial portion of Burgundy consumption, especially in Germany, where people are more willing to pay extra for wines that meet environmental and health criteria, and there is a higher proportion of well-off households. 

In Burgundy's home base, French consumers are drinking less wine annually. More French people are now occasional consumers of wine (45 percent), rather than regular (daily - 17 percent). The majority of the French now associate wine with special occasions than with everyday meals. One-fifth of the Burgundy drank in France in 2009 (99 million bottles) was done so in restaurants - it is present on nearly 90 percent of the menus of gastronomic restaurants and 60 percent of traditional restaurants.

Top five Burgundy markets in the first eight months of 2010

1. United Kingdom (13.5 million bottles)

2. United States (7.3 million)

3. Belgium (5.7 million)

4. Japan (4.9 million)

5. Germany (3.2 million)