Some of the world’s top wine producers will attend Asia’s biggest wine fair in Hong Kong this week, eyeing new consumers in the booming but still relatively untapped Chinese market.
Organizers of the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific trade fair expect demand for imported wine to weather the slowdown in Chinese economic growth, forecast to reach 7.5 percent this year compared with 9.2 percent in 2011.
“If the economy reduces speed they will not drink less. They might drink a little cheaper, but they won’t stop now that they have discovered wine,” Vinexpo chief executive Robert Beynat told AFP.
China is the world’s biggest drinker of spirits, with 995 million cases guzzled in 2010 — almost double the volume consumed in 2006, according to Vinexpo.
But the growth of spirit consumption is expected to slow as wine — especially expensive French imports — becomes more popular as a gift and as the drink of choice at banquets.
The average mainland Chinese drinker still only consumes 1.3 litters (0.34 US gallons) of wine a year, compared with 2.4 litters in Japan and 50 litters in France.
“In terms of consumption volume in Asia, it’s grown 100 percent in the past five years. When you look at the per–capita consumption, there’s a bright future,” Beynat said.
French wines still rule the Chinese market, accounting for around 45 percent of imports in terms of value, double the share of second-placed Italy.
Beynat said the statistic was typical of an emerging wine market. Like the Americans decades before them, new wine drinkers in China want French wines – the more expensive the better — to show off to their friends, he added.
The next challenge for the wine industry as a whole is to boost sales of more affordable wines, including locally produced vintages.
“That’s the challenge for the future, to explain to the Asians that there is good wine at every price,” Beynat said.
“For the Chinese, an imported wine has to be expensive. As they don’t know wine, there’s an enormous effort in information and education. They are at the beginning.”