The State of Italian Wine
Italy is one of the world’s largest wine producers. Out of the 251 million hectoliters of wine produced in 2017, 49 million came from the Bel Paese of Europe. Hailed for their top quality and excellent value for money, Italian wines are widely enjoyed by consumers in Asia, including China.
Export volume has grown in recent years as Italian wineries see profound opportunities in the Asian market. In China, exports reached an all-time high in 2017, valuing US$161 million. The boom is attributed to the maturing taste of the Chinese wine drinkers who have become more experienced and sophisticated in their choices.
Italian Wine in China
One of Europe’s Best
In 2018, Italy ranked as the fourth top suppliers of wine to China, closely tailing powerhouses like France, Australia and Chile. China imported 36.03 million liters of wine, valued at US$168.4 million, with a year-and-year growth is at 63%. Overall market share is at 6.3%.
Italy also enjoyed a rise in its average import price in China. From 2015 to 2017, the rate increased by 14%. The current average import price is at US$4.72 per liter. Italian vintners, however, still deal with the fact that most Chinese consumers are less familiar with their wines than they are with other foreign competitors, like France and Australia.
From Fashion to Wine: Revamping the Italian Image
Chinese consumers tend to equate Italy with fashion and design, not wine. Wine producers and organizations have been working hard to change this. In 2017, the ICE-Italian Trade Promotion Agency launched “I love Italian wines” in China. The initiative was meant to reach out to trade professionals and turn them into Italian wine ambassadors in China.
In the past two years, “I love Italian wines” events have visited 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Qingdao. Another major initiative aimed at increasing the visibility of Italian wines in China is the dictionary of Italian wine in Chinese. This was published April this year and spearheaded by the University of Milan.
Many vintners agree that there is a lack of unified and official promotional activities of Italian wines in China. With proper education and cultural communication, Italian wines can be better understood, which may then result in a higher demand that will benefit all the wine regions in Italy.
Popular Italian Wines in China Market
Valpolicella and Amarone are the most popular wines among high-income consumers in Shanghai and Beijing. Meanwhile, Aglianico, Barolo, Brunello, and Chianti can be found with certain ease in China. Sparkling Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti are also widely available, even in lower-tier cities.
Southern Italian wines like Primitivo and Nero d’Avola, known for their good value, are rising in popularity amongst Chinese young people. Italian white wine like Pecorino and Soave also have a strong following. Chinese wine drinkers like their light, crisp flavor and cheaper price. Italian wines are also varied enough to be paired with different Chinese cuisines.
With help from its high quality and affordable wines, Italian wine in China has been able to progressively increase. Sales of Italian wine have been growing as Chinese consumers take an open-minded attitude to alternative tastes. As China’s wine market continues to mature, Italian wine producers and retailers are positive that soon, wine from Italy will take its place alongside other mainstream vintages.