China has overtaken France and Italy to become the world's biggest consumer of red wine, a new study has found.
Last year, the country, including the Hong Kong hub, drank 1.865 billion bottles of red wine, or 155 million nine-litre cases, according to wine and spirits trade association VINEXPO.
France came in second with nearly 150 million cases, while Italy slipped to third place, with 140 million cases. Overall consumption rose 2.8 per cent in China, but saw a steep decline in France, down 18 per cent, and Italy, down 5.8 per cent, between 2007 and 2013.
However, on a per capita basis, wine consumption in China remains far lower than the other two. Chinese consumers drank 1.5 litres per person in 2013, far less than average in France, the study showed.
The study was commissioned by VINEXPO, a Bordeaux-based wine trade association, and conducted by the International Wine & Spirit Research, an independent research firm.
Chinese consumption of red wine has rocketed 136 per cent over the past six years, as wealthier shoppers continue to pour money into luxury items. The increase was also partly driven by cultural preference for red wine over white, the study said.
In China, red symbolises good fortune, wealth and power, while white is often associated with death, making it an obvious choice for business meetings.
VINEXPO new chief executive Guillaume Deglise told The Independent: "Red is a symbol of wealth and power, and it's also linked to good health, the Chinese like that."
More than 80 per cent of the wines consumed in China are made in the country, but imported wines are rapidly gaining market share. Imports have risen 7 per cent over the last six years accounting for 18.8 per cent of all wine consumed in China.
Overall, the US remains the biggest consumer of wine of all types, including white and sparkling wine, with consumption expected to hit 385 million cases by 2017.