By DAILY MAIL
China could overtake Australia in wine production within three years, a new industry report showed today.
Soaring growth in the number of Chinese vineyards is likely to help the country leap from tenth to sixth place by 2014 – representing a staggering 77 per cent rise in output.
Experts say the vast majority of its wine – which is mostly red – will continue to be drunk within the country as increasing prosperity there raises demand for what is still seen as a luxury.
But wine exhibition organisers Vinexpo, which produced the report, said that within a decade Chinese bottles could be sold in British supermarkets – and even in France.
In 2009 China produced 72million cases – or 960,000 tons – of wine after raising output by 28 per cent on the previous year.
If growth continues at this rate, the country will be expected to produce 128million cases in 2014, compared to Australia’s forecast of 121million.
Although the average consumption per head in China is still tiny compared to Western nations, demand for wine is rising fast and its population of 1.3billion means it could easily become the world’s biggest market.
Wine is seen as a status symbol, especially among the newly emerging middle classes.
In particular, they enjoy red wine, perhaps because of their love of tea with strong tannins.
Increasing Chinese demand has helped sustain the wine market during the global recession, especially for the most expensive brands.
Last years a Hong Kong businessman bid £145,000 for a single bottle of Château Lafite-Rothschild.
But Chinese consumers are fiercely nationalistic though, and are now keen to buy up local wines wherever and whenever they can.
Some of the world’s most famous wineries have responded by starting up vineyards themselves in China.
Spain’s prestigious Torres brand has been one of the most aggressive Western companies, with stakes in two vineyards in China.
Most of China’s 600 vineyards largely produce relatively low-quality wine.
But the Shandong region is increasingly becoming a hotspot for quality and is likely to lead the way in future exports.
Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre told trade magazineThe Grocer: ‘Forty years ago the US was in a similar position as China in terms of production and China could replicate the US.
‘Its growth will trigger joint ventures and foreign investment. ‘ He said that Chinese wine could ‘potentially’ be accepted in Europe.
‘It will take time but drinking Chinese wine at a French dinner table could happen,’ he added.
Stewart Blunt, wine analyst at market researchers Nielsen said that it was inevitable that China would overtake Australia in terms of production.
But he said that the UK would not necessarily be a target market and China’s exports would remain low.