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Half of China's middle class population drinks imported wine

Published:  01 August, 2019

Despite falling wine import volumes, China continues to mature as a market, according to the latest country report from Wine Intelligence.

Around 52 million Chinese drink imported wine at least twice a year, out of an urban mid-to-high income population of around 112 million.

The number who drink imported wine on a regular basis – that is, monthly or more – is around 33 million individuals.

One sign of the market maturing is the evolution of two new consumer segments, Wine Intelligence reports.

‘Engaged Explorers’, are high-spending consumers who are frequently willing to explore beyond traditional wine categories. Alongside these are the ‘Status Seekers’, who drink wine as a demonstration of social status and are willing to spend more on a bottle of wine.

Both segments developed out the previously identified ‘Prestige-seeking Traditionalist’ category of affluent consumers who primarily drank red wine and equated price with quality.

The largest consumer category remains that of the ‘Social Newbies’. With the youngest demographic among the segments, this represents those, most likely at the start of their careers, who are yet to develop an interest in wine and are still experimenting with the various categories.

Those Chinese consumers who drink wine for its medicinal value, the ‘Health Sippers’, are now the smallest market segment.

As Harpers reported in May, the World Bulk Wine Exhibition has launched its first Chinese edition in response to the booming market for bulk wine imports into China.

Bulk wine imports to China hit 176 million litres in 2018, up from 31 million litres in 2000. China is now the fifth largest importer of bulk wine worldwide, after Germany (615 million litres in 2018), France (543 million litres), the UK (500 million litres) and the US (251 million litres).

According to a recent IWSR/Vinexpo report, red wine accounts for 89% of wine consumption in China, with white rising to 9%.

The main providers of bulk-wine imports are Chile, at 93 million litres (up 66% year on year), and Australia (45.9 million litres, up 22.8%).