In 5 years, the world’s top wine­maker?

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By YU WEI in San Fran­cisco yuwei12@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Al­though Chi­nese con­sumers didn’t re­ally de­velop a taste for Western wine un­til a cou­ple of decades ago, China is pre­dicted to be­come the big­gest wine pro­ducer within five years, ac­cord­ing to the French Na­tional Cen­tre for Sci­en­tific Re­search.

Re­searcher Boris Pet­ric, an an­thro­pol­o­gist at CNRS, be­lieves China will dou­ble its vine­yard ca­pac­ity in the next five years, which means China will pro­duce more wine than any other coun­try by 2018.

“China has be­come the fifth-largest wine pro­ducer in the world in a few years and its vine­yards to­taled al­most 600,000 hectares in 2012. Given the num­ber of projects in progress, we can rea­son­ably think that China will be the first vine­yard in the world in area and vol­ume within five years,” Pet­ric told China Daily in an e-mail.

“China does have the po­ten­tial to be the world’s largest wine pro­ducer in the next five to seven years, as long as there is con­tin­ued re­gional gov­ern­ment sup­port to plant new vine­yards and ex­pand win­ery op­er­a­tions,” said Liz Thach, pro­fes­sor of wine busi­ness and man­age­ment at Sonoma State Univer­sity. “At this time, there does ap­pear to be much sup­port for this.”

Thach points to the Ningxia wine re­gion, which pro­duced the wine that won the 2011 De­canter Red Bordeaux Va­ri­etal In­ter­na­tional Tro­phy and has just an­nounced plans to ex­pand from 38 winer­ies to 70 in the next few years.

Lin­sey Gal­lagher, in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for the San Fran­cisco-based Wine In­sti­tute, said the ma­jor­ity of wine con­sumed in China — 85-to-90 per­cent — is do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced, but, “as the do­mes­tic wine mar­ket grows in China, so too does the mar­ket for im­ported wine,” she said.

“There­fore, as China in­creases its pro­duc­tion, both in terms of quan­tity and qual­ity, this bodes well for im­ported wines, par­tic­u­larly new world wines like those from Cal­i­for­nia, as it ex­pands the over­all wine mar­ket in China,” she added.

Ac­cord­ing to the San Fran­cisco-based Wine In­sti­tute, a del­e­ga­tion of 60 Cal­i­for­nia winer­ies — rep­re­sent­ing 110 brands and 32 Amer­i­can Viti­cul­tural Ar­eas — ex­hib­ited at the ProWine China 2013 Trade Fair in Shang­hai last month. Gal­lagher said the re­sponse from the del­e­ga­tion was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

“Many vintners re­ported find­ing po­ten­tial im­porters dur­ing the show,” she said.

“We are work­ing hard to in­sure that wines from Cal­i­for­nia are the im­ported wines of choice and in Chi­nese con­sumers’ con­sid­er­a­tion sets when they se­lect an im­ported wine,” Gal­lagher added.

Cal­i­for­nia ac­counts for nearly 90 per­cent of US wine pro­duc­tion. Its ex­ports to China to­taled $74 mil­lion in 2012, up 18 per­cent from 2011. For the first six months of 2013, Cal­i­for­nia wine ex­ports to China to­taled nearly $34 mil­lion, up 7 per­cent from the prior year.

As Cal­i­for­nia wine ex­ports to China con­tinue to rise, Napa Val­ley-based Yao Fam­ily Wines, founded by for­mer Chi­nese NBA star Yao Ming in 2011, has been along for the ride.

Tom Hinde, pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor of wine­mak­ing at Yao Fam­ily Wines, said they were happy with how their wines are sell­ing in China. The la­bel sells through­out the Chi­nese wine mar­ket, in­clud­ing Shang­hai, Bei­jing, Guangzhou, Shen­zhen, Hong Kong and Ma­cao.

“The largest wine pro­duc­ing coun­tries tend to also be the largest wine con­sum­ing coun­tries,” Hinde said. “China is go­ing to be a lead­ing con­sumer and a lead­ing pro­ducer.”

“We be­lieve that the op­por­tu­nity for Yao Fam­ily Wines is very good,” he said. “As con­sumers learn more, we will be a nice ad­di­tion to their do­mes­tic and im­ported op­tions.”

Some ex­perts sug­gest that China’s grow­ing at­trac­tion to wine pro­duc­tion may lead Chi­nese con­sumers to drink more made-in-China wines, rather than im­ports.

Mike Ve­seth, ed­i­tor of the blog Wine Econ­o­mist, said this could hap­pen, es­pe­cially in the lower cost ba­sic wine cat­e­gory.

“In the pre­mium and su­per­premium cat­e­gories, on the other hand, a ris­ing tide lifts all boats,” Ve­seth said. “The good news for Cal­i­for­nia winer­ies is that ‘Brand Cal­i­for­nia’ is ris­ing in China and this bodes well for the fu­ture.”

Ve­seth said al­though he is not con­vinced that China can be­come the world’s largest wine pro­ducer in the next five years, he would not be sur­prised if it were to sur­pass France and Italy at some point in the fu­ture.

“While the growth in the quan­tity of Chi­nese wine pro­duc­tion is very note­wor­thy, I am more im­pressed with what I see as a rise in qual­ity among the best producers,” he said.

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