By James Wells, reporting from ProWine China in Shanghai

Australian wineries are forecasting growth from white varietals in China, threatening the traditional dominance of red wine in the marketplace.

Local wine companies exhibiting at ProWine China in Shanghai this week were pleasantly surprised by the growing trend from buyers towards white wines as well as improved education and awareness of specific varietals.

Wine Australia figures show that while 93 per cent of wine sales to China are still red wine, there has been a 33 per cent increase in white wine exports over the last 12 months.

McWilliam’s Wines general manager – Asia Pacific, Garrick Harvison, believes that certain geographical areas in China as well as younger consumers will lead the charge to white wine varietals.

Garrick Harvison of McWilliam's Wines with Wine Australia's Willa Yang

“As Chinese consumers become more educated, food and wine pairing will become more prevalent. As a result, a lot coastal cities that are eating seafood are going to be drinking a lot more white wine. Traditionally it has always been a male-dominated red wine market, but white wine now has a lot of growth. If you go across the border into Hong Kong, the market is about 40 per cent white wine.

“Millenials are a big part of the growth in white wine. There is a big opportunity to introduce these younger consumers to sweeter wines such as Moscato as this will recruit them into the category.

“At ProWine, buyers come here to try new wines. Whether or not that translates into sales immediately is yet to be seen, but we are getting them to try the wines and understand the style. Chinese buyers are quite studious, so they will then go away and learn more. So I expect this will translate into sales in two or three years’ time as everything in China is a long game."

Mountadam Vineyards sales and marketing manager, James Edwards, said that over the first two days at the ProWine China exhibition he poured twice as much Riesling as any other wine.

James Edwards – Mountadam Vineyards

“I have been very impressed by the fact that Chinese buyers know Eden Valley, where it sits in the Barossa and that they are specifically asking for Riesling as well. Since I was last in China two years ago the education in wine has come along in leaps and bounds."

Peter Logan from Logan Wines in Orange also found Riesling to be a popular choice for the Chinese buyers on his stand at the exhibition.

"While the buyers are still skewed towards the reds and Shiraz in particular, it is only marginal, whereas in the past it has been 90 to 95 per cent reds. Riesling has been very popular and a lot of buyers have just wanted to taste this varietal.”

Wines by Geoff Hardy CEO Richard Dolan reported strong interest in his Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc which was tasted more than any other varietal on his stand.

Tyrrell’s Wines international manager Grant Bellve was also impressed by the interest in white wines.

Grant Bellve – Tyrrell’s Wines

“I would have expected the interest to be 90 per cent towards red wine, but the buyers have been asking specifically for our Hunter Semillon, and this is against trend.

“The reason why there has been so much red wine sold is that it has been the middle aged gentlemen that have been drinking it – but the younger people coming through are drinking white wine. I conducted a wine dinner recently in Chonquing which has a population of 31 million people. Around three quarters of the people attending the dinner were under 30 and they were all drinking white wine.”

The Shout Team

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