Ready to drink: Now is the time to enjoy wine in China

– By Campbell Thompson

Grape Wall of China looks at this country’s wine market and how it differs from other countries. In doing so, it aims to explain that difference instead of simply noting it exists.

In a recent post, Dan Siebers notes that most imported bottled wine, and most locally made wine for that matter, is red. Why? My take is that it is due to the following factors:

A significant share of customers only buys red wine, with the people who buy red and white (or only white) representing a smaller subset of the market.
Red is associated with good fortune in China and linked to healthfulness, such as being good for the heart.
Many consumers’ knowledge of grape wine is limited and some of them assume all grape wine is red. I’m not being disparaging: wine is relatively new to many consumers in China.
Most wine in China is purchased by men, unlike in markets such as the United States and Australia. Men are far more likely to choose red wine over white because it is perceived to be more masculine.
Bordeaux is by far the best known wine producing region. Its reputation is largely based on the quality of its red wines. (I’m also quite a fan of Bordeaux’s classy dry whites and the wonderful sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac.)
Many wines are purchased as gifts, especially for Chinese New Year and Autumn Festival. Red wine is perceived to be a much better gift than white wine.

Consumption of imported wine in China is set to grow rapidly. It rose from 27 million bottles in 2006 to 45-50 million bottles in 2007, and may hit 100 million bottles by 2010. My guess is that red wine will continue to represent 70 percent or more of imported bottled wine sales in China, simply because the many new consumers are much more likely to choose red wines. In addition, wine buying often becomes habitual, meaning many consumers who currently prefer to buy red wine are likely to continue to do so.

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