China on course for 100 million case market in 10 years

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The Chinese wine market is expected to be worth 50 million 9 litre cases within five years, and up to 100 milllion 9 litre cases in 10 years.


That was the prediction of Ian Ford, partner of Chinese importer, Summergate Fine Wines, at today's Wine Future conference in Hong Kong who said imported wine currently accounted for 23 million 9 litre cases up from 16.5 million cases in 2010.


Imported wine now accounts for 16% of the market and has seen a 60% increase in volumes in the last four years, according to Don St Pierre Jr, chief executive of Chinese importer, ASC Fine Wines.


But the growth in the market for imported wine has been matched by a "decrease in professionalism" for how wine is distributed and managed in China, warned St Pierre. This has resulted in a massive rise in smuggled wine via Hong Kong and the increase in counterfeit wine.


Ford said the number of importers had tripled since 2006 but was still struggling to "keep up with demand" of wine, particularly for imported wine across China.


The market, said St Pierre, was “messy” and “confused” and that the established Chinese wine market was lobbying the government hard to bring in tighter regulations governing the control and distribution of wine across China.


But he said the Chinese government recognised the seriousness of the problem particularly concerning health issues around counterfeit wines and he anticipated government intervention over the next year to 18 months. Particularly around introducing an import wine tax on volumes rather than value to deter smuggling, similar to the tax regimes in the US and Singapore.


Ford described the Chinese market as being split between an “open” and “closed” market. The open market covered all the traditional areas of supply through established distributors, importers, wholesalers and retailers. The closed market was made up of a mass of uncoordinated local players with far lower standards of supply, storage, transportation and organisation. He estimated up to 40% of wine was going through the "open" market and 60% through the "closed" market, comprising mainly of commodity local wines.


St Pierre said that if the local wine market did not raise its standards it risked losing more share to foreign players. Ford agreed urging the Chinese wine industry to play its part. But he predicted huge gains and opportunities for the major international wine producers.



The top 10 selling countries in China are in descending order: France; Australia; Italy; Spain; United States; Chile; Argentina New Zealand; Portugal; and South Africa. The French market accounts for 7.6 million 9 litre cases, according to St Pierre Jr.


He estimates there are now some 20,000 importers and distributors in China.


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