Leading article: Grape expectations

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The Independent Online

Picture the scene in a few years: a jolly party in full swing. Anyone fancy some Chinese? No, it's not takeaway sweet-and-sour that these festive revellers will be talking about, but wine.

As we report today, the Chinese are not only drinking far more foreign wine than they used to – a tribute to the vast expansion of China's middle class – they are also generating more of their own stuff – so much more that China appears destined to displace Australia in the next few years in terms of production volume.

Most people in this country will feel mystified. It is not as if cheery-looking bottles of Chinese plonk, decorated perhaps with dragon motifs, are a staple item on British supermarket shelves, and it still seems hard to imagine the day when they pose a threat to the hard-won positions in the bargain section of their Antipodean, Bulgarian or Romanian rivals. Truth be told, British partygoers probably won't be cracking open cheap Chinese reds or whites for some while. Most of the new wine being grown in China is being drunk at home, not exported.

For now, we can eat Peking duck, Shanghai noodles and beef Szechuan – but when it comes to sipping a Shanghai chardonnay we will have to wait.