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Producers urged to push sweeter sparkling wines in China

Published:  25 November, 2013

The paltry sparkling market in China could be significantly enlarged by promoting sweeter sparkling wines, according to leading professionals engaged in the country.

Nuno Terrao, export director of Russian sparkling wine producer, Abrau Durso, said Chinese consumers had shown a strong preference towards its own and other Russian sweeter sparkling wines shown at this month's Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair.

"Nine times out of ten, visitors to our stand specifically requested to try our demi-sec and demi-doux sparkling wines," he said. "In particular, this style seemed very popular with women and young professionals."

He added: "In our experience, the accepted wisdom that the Chinese do not like sparkling wine is unfounded and, certainly, our Cantonese visitors seemed to love the sweeter charmat wines."

Gianluca Bisol, owner of the Prosecco winery, said it had found Chinese consumers had responded well to its sweeter wines since it entered the market in 2006.

"In general, our customers tend to prefer sweet wines with balanced acidity both for their matching characteristics as well as their ability to 'refresh' considering the hot and humid summer climate which characterises most of the cities where it is being consumed," he explained.

Wine Intelligence research manager Rui Su agreed that despite the fact that few sweeter style sparkling wines were available in the market, the potential for increased demand was there.

"There is certainly a niche for sweeter sparkling wines in China because there are not many options offered to consumers. We have seen that entry level consumers, especially females, tend to prefer wines that are fruity, less tannic, lower in acidity and carry some level of sweetness," she said.

However, Piper Heidsieck's Chinese brand ambassador William Wang told that he believed the market would likely remain small for many years.

"It is difficult to say if sweeter styles can find much more demand. Nowadays the Chinese people consider a lot of factors when choosing wine. For example, I always explain the difference between our brut and demi-sec to my consumers, and then sometimes they think that demi-sec is not as healthy as brut as it contains more sugar. So they choose the brut!"

According to the ISWR's (International Wine and Spirit Research) managing director Alastair Smith the sparkling market in China is growing, albeit from a very small base. The total sparkling market in 2012 was 700,000 cases - a rise of 60% over 2011.