When you think of top wines, you think of countries like Germany, France, Italy or Spain. For a long time, China did not really play a role either as a wine importing or a wine exporting country. But the fact that the most populous country of the world increasingly establishes itself as a wine nation has been on the horizon for some time and is increasingly reflected in current statistics. The organisers of ProWein, the leading international trade fair for wines and spirits, also feel this trend, as China extends its presence at the fair.
China as a wine producer
It is hard to identify the country where wine actually comes from. There is no doubt, however, that researchers found a more than 9000-year-old vessel with fermented grape residue in China. The foundations of modern Chinese wine production were laid by Zhang Bisi, the successful entrepreneur , who set up the “Zhang Yu Wine Company” in 1892, a company now known by its present name Changyu. Economically, the company fell on hard times especially during the civil wars. Today it is the biggest wine producer in the People‘s Republic of China.
Wines from China often have to overcome prejudices regarding their taste and quality. But meanwhile, some of them have joined the ranks of the world’s top wines. This success is primarily due to a steady professionalisation of Chinese vineyards. And in recent years, the Chinese have increasingly imported expertise, i.e. mostly oenological consultants and highly trained winemakers from European countries. Chinese wine producers celebrated an initial major success, when Cathay Pacific, the Chinese airline, served red wine from China to its first-class passengers from December 2008 to February 2009.
In September 2011, a Chinese wine was the first to win a prize at the Decanter World Wine Awards, an important international competition. The winner in the “Red Bordeaux Varietal over £ 10” category was the 2009 vintage of the Jia-Bei-Lan Cabernet Cuvée from the He Lan Qing Xue winery. The jury found this red wine to be “supple, graceful and ripe but not flashy, with excellent length and four square tannins“.
Chinese consumer power
China‘s wine consumption is growing steadily. With 14.3 million hectolitres in 2010, the People‘s Republic currently ranks no. 5 worldwide. And the country’s winegrowing acreage is at the same level. Irrespective of its large domestic winegrowing acreage, China has also developed into an important and exciting market for wine imports by international suppliers. In 2011, the share of imported wines (in bottles) was 17% of total wine consumption - which corresponds to approx. 241 million litres. And a 65% increase between 2010 and 2011. In the first half of 2012, Chinese wine imports reached a new record high: 200 million litres of wine were imported with this figure corresponding to an increase by 12% year-on-year. The Chinese buy most of their imported wine from France, our European neighbour, followed by Australia. Market researchers from the Dutch Rabobank think that the average price the Chinese are willing to pay for French wines is particularly remarkable. After a plus of 20% year-on-year, this price now stands at USD 5.99.
German wines are also very popular on this Far East market. Between 2002 and 2009, wine imports from Germany to China increased by 886.7 %. According to the data of the German Wine Institute (Deutsches Weininstitut), exports to China showed a value increase by 19% and held position no. 8 among the most important export markets for German wines in 2011 - replacing Japan as the most important Asian export market of previous years.
In spring of this year, ProWein published the results of an international study on the “Ideal Wine” it had commissioned from Wine Intelligence, the London-based market research company. The study analysed the attributes, which are of special significance for consumers. And to what extent consumer preferences vary from country to country. For this study, the British researchers interviewed wine consumers in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany and China on topics such as price, packaging, favoured grape variety and preferred alcohol content.
The international trend goes to wines with lower alcohol contents. China is no exception here. According to the study, 91% of the surveyed Chinese wine consumers pay attention to the alcohol content when purchasing wine, and most Chinese consumers prefer wines with alcohol contents in a range between 8.5 and 10.5%.
Red wines are most popular in China. 79% of the survey’s participants opt for their country‘s traditional “lucky colour”. Their preferred grape variety is Cabernet Sauvignon. Lagging far behind were rosé wines (Cabernet Sauvignon rosé) with 10%; white wines (Chardonnay) play an even smaller role. Next to the colour of the wine, which is very important for the purchasing decision of 94% of the survey’s participants, their decision to buy is primarily determined by packaging (100%) and price (98%).
China and the ProWein trade fair
The Chinese continue to expand their trade relations to position themselves as attractive business partners and a lucrative import market. ProWein, the industry’s annual leading trade fair in Düsseldorf, offers an ideal platform. International experts have met for transnational discussions and transactions at this leading trade fair for wines and spirits since 1994. In March, the ProWein 2012 trade fair brought together almost 4,000 exhibitors from approx. 50 countries and more than 40,000 trade visitors from around the world. All internationally relevant winegrowing nations were represented, and Chinese wines were also shown at the trade fair, just like Moutai, the traditional Chinese luxury spirit, which was presented to international trade visitors at the joint exhibition stand of Guizhou province. And we expect both Chinese producers (as exhibitors) and numerous trading and importing companies from the “Middle Kingdom” in Düsseldorf for the next ProWein event.
At the same time, the ProWein trade fair also takes a big step to the Far East. In a cooperation with Meininger Verlag, the Düsseldorf organisers host a high-level tasting and seminar programme in the wine Hall of the “Wine & Spirits” fair at FHC China 2012, China‘s leading specialist fair for imported foods. On approx. 500 square metres in the “ProWein Tasting Zone”, Chinese importers have an opportunity to taste approx. 300 international wines, which have all won prizes at the international ‘MUNDUS VINI 2012’ wine competition. This is the ideal setting for importers to quench their thirst for international diversity - for which ProWein is an unparalleled example.
The next ProWein will be held at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre from 24 to 26 March 2013 and will have a new hall structure and two additional exhibition halls.
ProWein is hosted by Messe Düsseldorf and is the lead trade fair for wines and spirits. In March of each year, it is the meeting point and the business platform for the international wine and spirits industry. 4,000 exhibitors from the internationally relevant winegrowing nations present themselves in Düsseldorf to more than 40,000 experts from around the world.
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