The winds of change in China are most obvious in the biggest cities, but there are more than 100 cities with a population exceeding one million, and President Xi Jinping is moving to develop those parts of western China that have so far lagged behind in economic development. Demand will continue to increase, and the question is which countries will be able to supply it. The answer isn’t easy. Chile casts the longest shadow but (subject to aberrant weather) traditional European markets will also happily join the party. Italy, the south of France, South Africa and Western Europe will all offer to help. Will Australia’s producers reallocate some of the wine that would normally be sold on the domestic market and earmark it for export to China?
Here’s the elephant in the room: economists looking at Asia say there is an emerging middle class with disposable income that is likely to duplicate that of the People’s Republic. India is most frequently discussed but there’s also Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. All are buying more wine than ever before.
Back home, it appears that both supply and demand are operating to lift prices, and will continue to do so over the medium term. Behind these local forces, prices of top French wines are surging with unprecedented speed. The prices of the newly arriving red Burgundies, for example, are eye-watering. Here, too, the China factor is in play, forcing pinot lovers to balance their spend with a mix of imported and local wines.
What was the outcome for the prices of the 80 still table wines selected for the Top 100? Nine were priced between $100 and $500; 20 between $50 and $99, and another 15 between $30 and $49 each. For various reasons, none concerned with quality, the two most expensive wines on the market (Grange and Hill of Grace) weren’t chosen; otherwise, the weighted average price would have been even higher. ●