I recently returned from a trip to China and South Korea where I learned about the wine markets in those countries. In China we visited Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. We met with international distributors and Chinese media; I also hosted a food and wine seminar during our stay in Hong Kong.
China has traditionally been a culture of Baiju, a white spirit made of rice. What’s exciting about China is that the wine consumption rate is growing by 15 percent ever year, compared to 1 percent in the rest of the world. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to be a wine drinker in China.
The country has 500 wineries that have satisfied domestic market demand, but I think Chinese consumers are hungry for wines that are being made by producers outside the country.
Red wine is generally more popular than white wine because the color red represents good fortune and happiness.
Apart from drinking domestic wines, government officials and very wealthy citizens drink first growths, such as Chateau Lafite and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. These wines are consumed for many reasons, including their bearing as a status symbol. Drinking Lafite is a way to show face and honor.
In fact, the demand for Chateau Lafite in China is so high that an empty bottle filled with a counterfeit wine is often sold for $200.
China’s perception of wine is evolving and the demand for international wines from countries other than France is soaring. Many Chinese people are realizing that California, in particular, has many prestigious wine growing regions. As wine become more prevalent Chinese palates also become more sophisticated, leaving a lot of opportunity for international wineries to tap into the Chinese market.