Anthony Rose: 'The speed at which China is learning about wine has taken the global wine industry by surprise'

One of the keys to the dramatic expansion of wine in China was the result of Hong Kong's new-found status as a global wine hub. On 27 February 2008, John Tsang, the Chief Financial Secretary of Hong Kong's Treasury, announced the scrapping of the tax on wine in Hong Kong. With an estimated 350 importers today, and the proliferation of air-conditioned warehouses, Hong Kong has become a major supplier of fine wine, both legally and illicitly (China's duty is 48 per cent to Hong Kong's zero) to China.

Mainland China is a tougher nut to crack than Hong Kong. Only an estimated 11 per cent of China's middle class drinks wine, but there's been a dramatic rise in consumption from practically zero in 1995 to more than 20 million cases. The forecast is for 50 to 100 million wine drinkers and 100 million cases of wine imported within a decade. As an illustration of the speed of change, champagne exports alone virtually doubled last year from 48,000 to 92,000 cases.

The best wines are imported and dominated by France and Australia with Bordeaux still the wine of choice as a gift for the Chinese New Year.

Until recently top Bordeaux, with Château Lafite the standout wine, has made all the running among China's super-rich. Following Acker Merrall Condit's £9 million auction in November, the word on the street is that Burgundy, albeit with a smaller range, is the next Great Leap Forward.

There's also a shift occurring in where and how wine is sold in China. There are at least three main geographical markets: Beijing, Shanghai and the south around Guangzhou. The notion of quality and value is relatively recent but as China increases the prices of its own fancily-dressed premium wines, Chinese perception of an acceptable price for a premium wine, whether home-grown or imported, is changing.

According to Don St Pierre, head of importer ASC, the number of licensed wine importers in China has risen from 1,000 a few years back to 20,000 today. Imported wine was distributed only in primary cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and sold almost exclusively to foreign hotels and retailers. It was viewed as too expensive and wine was generally considered too hard to understand.

Today imported wines are entering major interior cities mainly through Chinese restaurants and large Chinese-owned supermarkets and department stores. The speed at which China is learning about wine has taken the global wine industry by surprise. Education is greatly valued in China and since consumers are receptive to learning about wine, distributors regularly organise wine seminars in smaller cities to teach customers how to appreciate wine.

With this growing sophistication, China's wine drinkers are starting to drink varietal wines and brands. South Africa for instance has grown from selling 20,000 cases in 2005 to 250,000 cases last year. There are obviously huge opportunities for South Africa, Chile and Australia because they sell their wines on brand name, grape variety and quality.

Indeed, domestic producers will need to pull up their socks if importers aren't to continue to take a larger share of the market. And while cabernet may be emperor today, white wine and pinot noir are seen as most likely to go well with the diversity of Chinese cuisine. So the challenge of the next decade is narrowing the gap still further between price and prestige and expanding that of taste and value.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

    £31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Account Executive - Hotel Reservation Software - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly growing Hotel ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game