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China imports huge quantities of wine even as domestic consumption drops

Published:  06 July, 2018

Wine imports into China are continuing to soar, boosted by a strong-performing Australia, while overall Chinese consumption continues its downward trend.

The total volume of wine imported in to China in 2017 soared 15%, against a 2% drop in the total volume of still wine drunk in the country during the year, according to Wine Intelligence’s China Landscapes 2018 report, released this week.

Most wine-producing countries contributed to the flow, significantly increasing their exports to China, but Australian wines are making a particular mark, claiming the second highest awareness and consumption levels after France.

More specifically, 53% of urban upper-middle class drinkers of imported wine in China are aware of Australia as a wine-producing country, while 36% have drunk wine from Australia in the past six months, according to consumer feedback from Vinitrac China.

“Brands from Bordeaux might have been more prominent six years ago when imported wine was primarily associated with gifting and business occasions.

However, as the market is shifting towards personal consumption, more imported wine brands are building their presence in China and connect with their audiences,” says Wine Intelligence.


But while domestic wine consumption is down – market share has dropped from 80% in 2013 to only 61% in 2017 – the most powerful wine brands in the country are homemade. The Changyu and Great Wall brands have the highest overall scores among all the brands tested in 2018.

Based on a combination of consumer-reported brand health measures, Lafite, Yellow Tail and Penfolds have the highest brand power scores among the imported wine brands tested in 2018, according to the report.

Sparkling and rosé wines remain minority categories in China, offering opportunity for further growth, with the return on investment potential for organic and lower-alcohol wine, and wine in smaller formats also currently marginal in China.


It’s not just wine for which China represents a big opportunity. Scotch whisky exports to the country were up a staggering 47.4% in value last year, an additional £19.6 million, to £61 million.

In volume terms, the equivalent of 14.7 million bottles of Scotch whisky were exported, representing a change of 3.5 million bottles, or 30.6% growth, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

“Scotch whisky is the world’s premium spirit and China represents a key market, both now and in the future. Last year’s 47% increase in the value of Scotch whisky exports to China shows the market has huge potential for growth,” says the SWA.

During prime minister Theresa May’s visit to China earlier this year, the SWA renewed its collective trademark on Scotch whisky in the country for a further 10 years – a “crucial achievement”.

The SWA says: “This legal protection is the rm foundation on which our future trade is built.”