China Produced 72 Million Cases Of Wine In 2009, Up 28 Percent From 2008
This week, a report by the French wine exhibition organizers Vinexpo noted that China produced a total of 72 million cases of grape wine in 2009, a rise of 28 percent over 2008. Growing domestic demand from younger demographics and the country’s growing middle class, along with a proliferation of smaller wineries throughout the country, has seen production skyrocket since beginning on a wide scale in the early 1980s.
Now, China has some of the world’s top winemaking countries in the crosshairs, as it is projected to surpass the second-largest producer, Australia, by volume in the next three years. If growth in the Chinese wine industry continues at the same pace, Vinexpo notes, the country will produce 128 million cases of wine in 2012, which would beat Australia’s current forecast of 121 million cases that year.
As Australia’s Herald Sun writes this week, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see Chinese wine replacing Aussie plonk on store shelves in the near future:
“Some Chinese labels have exhibited internationally and sold a tiny amount of wine,” [wine writer Denis] Gastin said.
“But that is not the focus of the industry at the moment. The motivation was more to show Chinese drinkers local growers could compete internationally.”
Wine Australia’s Asian director, Lucy Anderson, said the growth of China’s wine industry does not threaten Australian exports.
“Based on previous figures we should see growth in exports (to China) of about half a million cases in 2011,” she said.
“The Chinese wine market is growing at around 20 per cent per year and Australian export growth is tracking with it.”
Although Australian winemakers, who (rightfully) believe their product to be of a higher average quality than Chinese grape wine, don’t seem terribly concerned about the competition, what are the actual odds we’ll see more made-in-China wine in international markets in coming years? Will, as many observers believe, Chinese producers continue to view overseas markets more as a selling point at home than a key business objective, focusing instead on the vast domestic market? Or will the rapidly increasing production capacity, and glut of new vineyards, make Chinese wineries more ambitious? This week, Britain’s Independent takes the position that the answer to both of these questions may be, “yes.”
While its production is overwhelmingly drunk within the country and has a poor reputation among oenophiles, the country’s vast landmass and varying topography and climate make it a potential viticultural superpower.
Three years ago Britain’s oldest wine merchants Berry Bros predicted China would become the world’s biggest wine producer by 2058, saying: “With the right soil, low labour costs and soaring domestic demand, China is set to take the world of wine by storm.”
However, as some experts say, it’d be premature to put Chinese wineries on par with many of their French or even American counterparts, some of which have been producing wine for centuries.
“China is so vast that it’s inevitable that there are going to be some areas that are good for making good quality wines, but whether the potential is fully developed won’t be apparent for 10 or 15 or 20 or even 50 years because it takes a long time for a country to discover what it’s got,” [Richard Ehrlich, wine editor of Good Housekeeping], said.