BY GAIL BARNES
The Australian wine industry is benefitting from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with Australian bottled wines showing a strong 50.8% increase in value and 20.5% increase in volume, with the average price raising by 25.2% according to industry publications.
Based on the trade agreement, China has started to reduce the import tariffs on Australian wines from this year and will eventually abolish the tariff in 2019. Many believe the move will place Australian wines in a stronger position in the Chinese market than its old-world peers.
Australian wines finding favour
Australian winemakers are increasingly finding favour with Asian tastebuds as the region’s burgeoning middle and upper classes search for new gastronomical adventures, fueled by rising incomes. “The Asia-Pacific represents an important opportunity for Australia and we are on its doorstep,” Wine Australia’s Stuart Barclay said in an industry publication. “The Asian market is also still understanding what wine really is, so the potential in Asia, specifically in China, is enormous for Australian wines.”
Sirromet Wines is a family-owned winery at the forefront of the Australian wine industry, and one of the companies benefitting from the Asian, and particularly Chinese, boom for Australian wines. “It’s really been a rapid change in attitudes towards wine,” said Rod Hill of Sirromet Wines, quoted in an industry publication on the booming wine demand in China. “Five years ago, it was rare to see people in bars drinking wine. When I was there seven months ago, I just couldn’t believe the size of the wine lists.”
With consumption projected to grow strongly in Asia, vintners such as Peter Thompson are going the extra mile by designing wines that cater to local palates, notably by producing lighter and less full-bodied ones.
China’s wine market is taking off
Led by an expanding base of female and health-conscious consumers, China’s wine market is taking off. Younger and more sophisticated wine lovers in China are more interested in trying a wider array of styles from beyond the classic regions, according to the latest Wine Intelligence research.
Over 40% of imported wine drinkers in China are now 18-29 year-olds, and they are increasingly moving away from the “mainstream” French or Spanish wines in the market to new regions and styles, according to the 2015 China Wine Market Landscape report released by Wine Intelligence.
As health remains as the biggest reason to drink wine, 39% (31% in 2014) of those surveyed consume wine because “it makes people modern and sophisticated”. Nearly a third of them consider the wine drinking habit as a demonstration of personal career success, said the report.
The report also shows that fewer Chinese consumers are buying wines from hypermarkets (58% vs. 65%) and supermarkets (20% vs. 25%) than 2014, whereas online platforms (45%) remain as the key channel to wine purchase, mainly due to its transparency of information, wide range of choice and more competitive prices.
“Opportunities will come in wines priced under ¥100 ($16), as consumers look to discover delicious everyday wines offering great value for money,” said Wine Intelligence.
China is already the world’s fifth largest consumer of wines. In 2013, it overtook France to become the world’s top buyer of red varieties, according to industry group Vinexpo.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020