The Chinese wine market is maturing quickly as several Australian wine exporters are reporting a strong demand from buyers for wine over $100 a bottle

Australian wineries exhibiting at this week’s ProWine China in Shanghai told TheShout a stronger knowledge of wine among importers and consumers is also driving demand for higher priced products.

This is reinforced by the data supplied by Wine Australia showing that the value of exports to China has increased by 56 per cent to $739 million and exports to Greater China including Hong Kong and Macau have increased by 42 per cent to $853 million. Mainland China now represents roughly a third of Australia’s total wine export value and premium wines now represent the fastest growing area of wine exports with an annual increase of 23 per cent by value.

Paxton Wines sales and marketing director, Brian Lamb, told TheShout at ProWine China in Shanghai this week that up to 70 per cent of his most expensive wine, the Elizabeth Jean Shiraz or EJ Block is now sold into the Chinese market.

Brian Lamb of Paxton Wines

“We have had a lot of attention from our EJ Block – which draws on a small production from a 125 year-old vines and our best sales for that product is here in China at $100 per bottle retail. We are very excited to see that premium wine has become a higher priority here in China for the trade and it feels like the businesses that we are meeting with have matured as well which is great.

“I would say upwards of 60-70 per cent of the production of EJ is coming to the Chinese market. We have companies in China that buy in larger quantities in one-drop than we have in any of our domestic markets. There is a significance to the Chinese market about the prestige of products from vineyards over 100 years old. We are embracing that and nurturing that demand and we are able to produce a little bit more and so we are happy to see they understand how to premiumise and sell premium products to their consumers.

“It feels there is a mature element to the trade here in regards to what they are looking for and the prices they are prepared to pay and it feel like we have evolved past the value range product style of conversations from years ago and more towards premium wines with scores and accolades or trophies focusing on more premium and more ultra-premium market.”

Mike Brown managing director and chief winemaker at Gemtree Wines told TheShout his Obsidian wine which sells for $360, is now on an allocation basis due to the export demand from China.

“China is the market driving Obsidian now and represents 50 per cent of the entire sales. The messaging around our organic certification is starting to take hold, and buyers are making a conscious decision to purchase that way,” Brown said.

Trentham Estate managing director and winemaker, Anthony Murphy told TheShout, “we have found people at this show have been looking at more up-market and premium wines which is great news and certainly Australian Shiraz is the place to be”.

Fleur McCree from the only New Zealand exhibitor, Vinultra, said: “There is a lot of interest in the entry level product from Marlborough which is still not cheap and there is a lot of interest in the premium products. They are looking for uniqueness and they are strong on quality packaging”.

Jared Shattock head of packaging division at Kingston Estate said that his visit to ProWine China was about changing the perception of his products.

“For us it is about premiumising China,” he said.

“The opportunity for Kingston Estate is change our mindset and to come into a market that is relatively young compared to the European market and the UK market to set Australian wine in the right direction for the next 10 or 15 years”.

Kingston Estate’s Jared Shattock

Tyrrell’s export manager, Grant Bellve, said he has seen a shift in the attitude from Chinese buyers.

“If you asked me four or five years ago, it would have been all about Australian wine that was red and cheap with lots of alcohol,” Bellve said.

“But now the questions that I am being asked are the same as those that I am being asked in New York or Dusseldorf or England. They are the correct questions about how the wine is made, what region it comes from and why it tastes like it does. It has changed tremendously over the last few years. The quality of the people coming to this show and the questions we are being asked is so much higher than previously.”

Tastings at ProWine China

Philip Jeffries – D’arenberg general manager sales and marketing also said that the Chinese market has matured over the last five years.

“Education has gone through the roof and the Chinese buyers know what they are looking for and they are coming to D’arenberg for reputation, brand story and heritage which we can provide. They are not asking us about price which they would have a few years ago – they are looking for quality products they can start importing.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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