Wine Intelligence (www.wineintelligence.com) has come up with a further in-depth study of the structure of the Chinese wine market. It took two years to come up with the full report, which is aimed at medium to large winery operations around the world, with a cost of a cool $4000.
Some of its headline findings will not surprise China watchers. However, the numbers and percentages will undoubtedly add to the overall understanding of the market. The high end is a by-product of business and gift-giving activities, and make up 22% of the wine drinking (assuming the bottles are actually opened) but over 40% of the total spend in the market. Wine Intelligence observes ‘These individuals are typically purchasing top end Bordeaux and Burgundy for business dinners and gift, but are unlikely to venture beyond prestige wines to buy more everyday brands for their own consumption.’
At the other end, middle-aged couples and younger social drinkers account for nearly half of the current wine drinking population, but only a third of sales by value.
The conclusion that the market is still at an early stage of development certainly comes as no surprise. Maria Troein, Wine Intelligence Country Manager for China, tantalisingly says ‘Nonetheless, there are encouraging signs that there are sections of the market who find wine interesting and appealing for reasons that go beyond social prestige. As the market evolves, the big question for us will be to see whether this remains a niche group of enthusiasts, or whether we begin to see a larger segment of consumers picking up a bottle of wine as a natural, everyday choice.’
I personally have no doubt that the market will evolve, but the unanswerable question is whether this will take one year, five years, or longer. Even this has unspoken questions and assumptions. How do you measure the rate of change and the volume of change. This will vary substantially between exporters in the market, and their ability to hang in there despite frustration and the difficulty of piercing the veil of the Chinese mind.