China has become the world’s biggest market for red wine consumption for the first time, overtaking France and Italy where the quantity imbibed has been falling, according to new research.
More than 80 per cent of red wine consumed in China is produced locally. It has become the world’s fifth-largest producer, behind Italy, France, the US and Spain, according to the International Wine and Spirits Research, the London-based drinks research group.
Red wine drinkers in China increased their consumption by 2.75 times between 2007-2013 – to 1.865bn bottles last year. During the same period the amount drunk in France and Italy fell by, respectively, 18 per cent and 5.8 per cent.
French drinkers consumed 1.8bn bottles of red wine last year while Italians downed 1.7bn.
“Chinese consumers have become increasingly attracted to red wine since 2005,” according to the study produced for Vinexpo, the Bordeaux-based wine conference which holds its annual Hong Kong exhibition in May.
It attributed the increased popularity to a belief that red wine is healthier than traditional rice-based spirits and a growing tendency to choose red wine for business meetings.
Chinese interest in red wine has also been reflected in recent years in purchases of Bordeaux vineyards and chateaux. Bordeaux dominates China’s red wine imports.
Imported wines have risen rapidly – by more than seven times between 2007-2013 – pushing up their share of the domestic market to 18.6 per cent, the IWSR study said.
Despite the increased popularity of red wine, total wine consumption in China fell last year by 2.2 per cent after a decade of annual growth rates of 20-25 per cent, reflecting in part the Chinese government’s anti-corruption drive which has also hit expensive cognac sales.
The US remains the world’s bigger consumer of all types of wine, a position it has held since 2011.