In the last three years, China has doubled its wine imports and thus surpassed Canada in fourth place in the ranking of total consumers with a current population of 38 million wine lovers. According to the statistics from the China Association for Imports&Exports of Wines&Spirits, China imported US$ 1.77 billion worth of wines during the first nine months of 2016, representing a 19.1% year-on-year increase. China’s total volume of wine imports also jumped 14.42% to over 464 million liters from January to September.

Among the most important wine importing countries in China, Italian wines ranked the fifth position in the first eight months of 2016. Italian wine exports to China grew by 24% in value and outperformed the overall market by more than 6 points according to the data from Nomisma’s Wine Monitor. This increase is the result of “the positive effects of the promotion policies set is place in China by the Italian Government”, as reported by Mr. Giovanni Mantonavi, the CEO of Veronafiere trade fair. Nonetheless, it lags far behind the top four: France followed by Chile and Spain just ahead of Australia.

In fact, French wines remain in first place with the biggest share of imported bottles wines in China, accounting a 78% year-on-year increase in value. Compared to Italian wine exports, this increase of French and Spanish wine exports is partially prompted by the investments of Chinese vineyards, such as Changyu Pioneer, who already owns two wineries in France and one bodega in Spain, and foresees the acquisition of two wineries in Bordeaux region in France. These acquisitions allow the Chinese wine and spirit group to ship approximately one million of wine bottles from France per year and three million bottles from its Spanish property.

Another factor which can explain the huge increase of wine imports in China is the Free Trade Agreement concluded in recent years. Since signing the China-Australian Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA,2015), which was set to abolish the import tariff on Australian wines by 2019, imports of Australian wines to China surged more than 50% from January to September 2016.Furthermore, when the FreeTradeAgreement came into force, the Australian wine agency’s regulatory services saw a rise of 48% of applications for wine export certificates to China.

Similarly, in 2015, Chilean wine exports to China rose by 41% in value over 2014, after China abolished all tariffs on Chilean wines in the same year.

Surprisingly, the American wine importation captures a comparatively tiny fraction of the China’s overall wine imports despite the fact that the United States wine industry is one of the largest in the world. In 2015, U.S. wine exports reached an increase of 7.4% from 2014 and a rate of 4.1% growth in volume in the same period. However, America’s imports of wines in China remained largely inferior compared to the top 5.

It is undeniable that the Chinese market represents an attractive market for wines exporting countries since the number of wine consumers will increase in the next few years. It is of the utmost importance to obtain the registration the trademark in China and have the label compliant with Food Law regulations. You can contact HFG in case you need any clarification on regulations of importation and commercialization of wine in China.