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FOCUS: Chinese Wine Industry
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Chinese Wine Industry
By John Feng

BT 201901 focus 01中国葡萄酒行业

法国葡萄酒是唯一优质的,这个想法非常陈旧以及不正确。也许他们是第一批实现专业化的国家,法国的葡萄酒生产可以追溯到公元前6世纪,当时希腊人在高卢南部地区殖民。 如今葡萄酒行业最显着的差异是美国和中国葡萄酒质量的大幅提升。

中国确实是新一波葡萄酒生产商中最有竞争力的参与者之一,并且在短时间内成为了葡萄酒生产和进口的先锋。 有人声称中国葡萄酒的行业始于1892年的山东省,但他们花了近90年的时间来体验真正的繁荣。

我相信中国在全球葡萄酒行业方面的重要性,前景是非常乐观的。 随着人口规模和葡萄酒文化的增长,中国很可能在不远的将来成为世界上最大的葡萄酒消费国。 尽管将葡萄酒出口到中国的规则很严格,但这似乎是一个很好的商机。

BT 201901 focus 02The idea that only French wine is good has so much of old as of untrue. Maybe they were the first ones to professionalize the industry and their wine production goes back to the 6th century BC when the Greeks colonized the Southern area of Gaul. However, what we should consider now is how well other countries are becoming in this “art”? They are indeed competing with the French for international prizes in all categories, and the most striking difference between now and the past is the big increment on quality from the American and Chinese wine industries.

China is indeed one of the most relevant players in this new wave of wine producers and it did not take them long to be in the vanguard of wine production and importation. There are claims that their industry started in the Shandong Province in 1892, but it took them almost 90 years to experience the real boom.

All this development is leading to reach a level of consumption, in 2020, of $21 Billion worth of this majestic nectar, becoming then the 2nd largest wine market in the world. This consumption is not only based on the importation of world-class wines but also on its own production. In fact, in 2017, Chinese wines won an astonishing number of medals in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB), which for many is considered as one of the “wine markets leading buying cues” and, with its more than 20 years’ experience, also became a benchmark amongst wine contests.

For two consecutive years, China as also outnumbered every country in the number of entries, representing 25% of all the wines up for the contest. From these amount over one third won medals!

BT 201901 focus 03Production

It is already clear that China is a big player in this industry, but what makes them special and relevant? Let’s start by analyzing the wine areas and grapes and try to understand more about this country’s production effort.

BT 201901 focus 04Wine Regions

To better understand the dimension of the industry, allow me to start by saying that China has the second largest area under vine in the world, with an impressive 874,000 ha of vineyards, only surpassed by Spain.

As you can see on the map above, there is not a specific part of the country that allows for production but there is a clear pattern in terms of latitude. The star area is Ningxia that won 34 medals in CMB, followed by Xinjiang, the largest wine grape production area, with 22. Other relevant regions that are growing in popularity are Hebei, Beijing and Shandong.

BT 201901 focus 05Grape Varietals

The red wine is, as in most parts of the world, the dominant kind for production and for the Chinese industry it represents the vast majority of their award-winning wines. More specifically, 60% of their 2017 CMB awards were delivered to the Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes. Still, there are many wine producers still trying to find the ideal grape mix and some have found good levels of quality in other varietals like Chardonnay and Shiraz.

However, there is a very interesting trend that might represent some changes in the future. White wine is increasing in popularity mostly due to the “white-collar” women in metropolitan areas, that tend to appreciate more delicate and aromatic wines.

Let’s not forget about the Chinese-bred grapes that are gaining momentum as they are more resilient to the terroir. Names like Longyan, Shuanghong and Beibinghong are among the 39 wild grape strains that might start gaining a reputation in the world.

BT 201901 focus 06Import

Imports are also a big part of the Chinese wine industry and it keeps growing year after year. In the first quarter of this year, a little over 200 million litres, valued at $792 million, were imported representing a year-on-year growth of 32% in volume and 36% in value. France, with a market share of 38,2%, is still the main exporter for the Chinese consumers but the difference is narrowing down with Australia (28,1% of market share).

BT 201901 focus 07Wrapping Up

I believe it became clear the importance of this country in terms of the worldwide wine industry and the prospect is growth at an accelerated pace. It is likely that China will become the world’s biggest wine consumer in a not very distant future as both the population size and wine culture are growing. Even though the rules to export wine to China are tight, it seems like a good business opportunity. But where I believe the future lies, is in developing the country’s original grape varietals, study them and make them famous around the world. That is when China will claim their position in the “Nectar of Gods” industry!

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