Vinexpo Hong Kong (HKV) held in late May (where Australia was the “Country of the Year” in 2018) brought out some very interesting facts. Starting with the estimate that China will continue to drive the world’s wine sales growth as it increases its consumption to around USD23 billion by 2023. To put that into context, Australia (at No.2 imported wine country) sold them AUD2 billion worth of wine in 2017. It is estimated that China will become the second largest (by value) wine market in the world by then, second only to the USA.
At one of the seminars at HKV, Mike Hu, the President of the FMCG unit (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), of Alibaba’s massive online sales unit, Tmall, noted that: over 53% of its sizeable wine sales were, these days, to people born in the 1980s, or later, and that almost 80% of all wine sales were for home consumption. Their definition of home consumption, includes BYO at restaurants which in China is a right enshrined in legislation.
Another change underway in the Chinese wine market is the increasing willingness of wine drinkers to explore and try smaller/newer wine brands, rather than relying mainly on the bigger, more established brands as was the case it the past. This is a trend that is also being observed in their fashion industry. The main proviso in this trend is that the wineries have to have a good degree of credibility – not just concocted brand names and a significant online presence with informative/quality content. The old-style slideshow/static page websites will just not cut it. They require video footage of the winemaker and/or the winemaking process with interesting and informative stories so as to be able to associate with the winery and have comfort in their decision to purchase their wines. If you have any Green credentials – Bonus!!
Another interesting trend is that renowned wine critics like Robert Parker and James Halliday are becoming less influential than what they once were, with more and more Chinese wine drinkers relying on peer opinions and reviews on WeChat, as they become more comfortable with and better educated about wine.
White and sparkling wines current account for just under 20% of the wine sold in China. However, bear in mind that when we (Wine Assist) started shipping wine to China on behalf of our clients in 2006 they were around 2-3% of the wine market. That is significant growth over the last 12 years. This growth is being driven by the younger wine drinkers, especially younger women. I believe that this trend will continue well into the future as white wines are generally better suited to accompany the vast majority of Chinese cuisine, than what red wines are. Most Chinese dishes are subtly flavoured and elegant and can be easily swamped by big tannic reds – except of course for ubber hot and spicy dishes like those from Szechuan, etc.
Right now the greatest wine sales growth is in the third and fourth tier cities, as the first tier cities have become saturated with wine brands. As one Aussie winemaker said to me: “You can’t go far in Beijing or Shanghai without tripping over an Aussie winemaker.”
Well that’s it for this week. I trust that this information is of interest and assistance. I hope to have more after attending the sensational Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair in November. Check it out http://m.hktdc.com/fair/hkwinefair-en/HKTDC-Hong-Kong-International-Wine-and-Spirits-Fair.html or at @HKIWS or @HKTDC on Facebook or Twitter. Cheers!
THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:
This week’s wine is an exceptional find! A great Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon for a RRP of just $22.00. Most Cabernet Sauvignon from the famous Coonawarra red wine Region of South Australia cost considerably more with the top wines nudging the $100 a bottle mark, making this beauty a real bargain.
The HESKETH WINES 2016 COONAWARRA “SMALL PARCELS” CABERNET SAUVIGNON is just such a RARE BEAST: This wine has masses of deep, dense, purple/red colour, bright, lively Cabernet aromas with red berries and a hint of cassis. On the palate it offers a beautiful mouthful of red and blackberry flavours with elegant, gentle tannins, making it perfectly balanced. No need to bury this one in the cellar, its rearing to go right now either on its own or with all but the richest of food dishes.
Given that this is their first effort with bottling a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is an awesome result which suggests that their other “Small Parcel” bottlings are also well worth keeping an eye out for.
Check out www.heskethwinecompany.com.au for more info.