China is the second largest consumer of Australian wine behind France. In the past year, exports have increased by 51%, with sales reaching US$1 billion (including Hong Kong and Macau). The overall market perception for Australian wine is good, with many Chinese recognizing the vintages as both sophisticated and healthy.
Among the most popular exports of Australian wine are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon – a testament to China’s love for red wine. White wine, however, is steadily making progress in the market, with Chardonnay being one of the most consumed varietals. With the removal of tariffs due to the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement, many Australian wine producers are optimistic about the future.
Australian wines are sold almost everywhere in China, from bars and restaurants to online stores. Premium vintages are offered in banquet halls, hotels, VIP clubs and even company canteens. Major cities have wine bars that feature extensive lists of imported drinks, while second and third-tier cities usually have informal wine clubs with help from key local distributors.
Off-trade channels include the hundreds of wine stores and supermarkets in the region. Online sales for well-known wine brands are also high. In 2018, the volume of Australian wine sold online grew by 61%. For instance, there are about 150 Australian brands currently available for purchase in Tmall.com. WeChat is likewise a popular platform to promote and sell bottled wines.
Trends and Opportunities
The rising middle class is a major factor in the increased interest of the Chinese for Australian wine. In 2016, there were already over 48 million imported wine drinkers in the region. These consumers have risen the demand for entry-level and commercial vintages. Wines from Australia are particularly well-loved as they are perceived as authentic, exciting and reliable.
Meanwhile, red wine continues to dominate both sales and exports of Australian wine in the region. More than 96 percent of vintages shipped from Australia is red. Consumers from the North are more inclined to those that are full-bodied and with higher alcohol content, while those from the South prefer lighter ones.
Wine producers, however, are setting their sights on the increasing number of young Chinese who have developed a liking on Australian white wines. These drinkers are more open to trying new styles. In 2017, exports of white wine have increased by 33%. Chardonnay tops the list of varietals, followed by Riesling and Semillon.
China is a dynamic market for Australian wine due to the demand, but this means competition is stiff. Companies planning to sell in the market need to properly identify the consumer groups they want to target and cater to their specific taste and preference. This way, they will avoid losing valuable resources.