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Wine Intelligence predicts bright future for sparkling in China

Published:  13 February, 2018

Wine Intelligence has predicted sparkling wine consumption in China is poised to take off boosted by a wave of more affordable options.

Held back by “traditional stereotypes”, sparkling wine consumption in the country has in the past been minimal compared to still, but this could all be about to change in line with the market seeing a proliferation of inexpensive sparkling wines, according to new research by Wine Intelligence.

The surge of more affordable bubbles was drawing in “the average consumer”, particular young professionals for whom more expensive types, such as Champagne, had previously been out of reach, said Chuan Zhou, research director at Wine Intelligence.

“There should be a bright future for sparkling wine in China overall because it connects with the needs of the young generation, which is moving away from the ‘ganbei’ or ‘bottoms up’ drinking culture,” she said.

Importers and retailers were both predicting a breakthrough in coming years for non-Champagne sparkling wines, added Zhou.

“This is due to the typically lower price and also the flavour of such bubbles being more suitable to the Chinese palate – both of which allow consumers to enjoy it on informal and frequent occasions,” she said.

Education, however, remained key to increase awareness and appreciation, added Zhou, with the Chinese strongly associating bubbles with celebrations and special occasions, she said.

“Conveying the message that sparkling wine is suitable for drinking at informal occasions, such as gathering with friends, is crucial.”

The style of sparkling wine that had the greatest potential in China would be sweet (not sugary sweet like candy but sweet enough to balance the high acidity in sparkling wine), slightly sparkling (think frizzante) and exhibit pronounced fruit flavours, according to the research – the first Wine Intelligence report on sparkling wine in the Chinese market.

In 2016, China consumed over 160 million 9-litre cases of still wine compared with only 1.6 million 9-litre cases of sparkling – the equivalent of 1% of still wine versus a norm in most other markets of around 10%, according to the IWSR.