A new report has shown the significant potential for Spanish wines in the fast-growing Chinese market.
Figures from The Food and Drink Industry in China report, compiled by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Barcelona, suggest that there are between 360 and 420 million potential Chinese wine drinkers, mostly based in the coastal cities.
But with per capita consumption at just 0.3 litres a year, there is major potential for growth, especially for bottled wines. At present, 90 per cent of Spain's exports to China are in the form of still bulk wine, with almost all of the remainder coming from sparkling wines.
The study predicts that the market for wine in China will grow by between 10 and 15 per cent in the next three years, but warns that local wine production is also increasing, making it harder for imports to gain a foothold.
Exports of wine to China, mostly from France, Spain and Italy, began in 1996, but in the last couple of years, local wineries have begun to take back market share from the European producers. Chinese wine makers now account for 70 per cent of the market, with imports taking the remaining 30 per cent. Sales of imports have been affected by a rise in the number of wines smuggled over the border in the south of China and sold at around a third of the price, as well as false 'imports' produced and bottled in China but with European labels.
Felix Solis and Torres are the Spanish wineries with the biggest presence in China. Solis is the fourth largest Spanish winery in terms of sales, and has been in China for five years. It has a winery in Shanghai and posted sales of more than €4.2 million in 2001. The wine arrives from Spain in stainless steel tanks and is then bottled in China.
Torres began exporting its wine to China in 1982, and in 1997 became the majority shareholder in the Great Wall Torres Winery. In 1999 it decided to focus on the market in Shanghai via the Shanghai Torres Wine Trading company.