A whole lot of people in the wine industry believe that China's interest in wine is a sign of the apocalypse. For winos hell, it turns out, is being priced out of everything except for South African pinotage. What if China discovers Riesling? Or worse: Beaujolais?! The answer is: something like death.
Should we really be worried? Not quite yet. Decanter summarized a recent report on Chinese wine consumption, saying, "The country's wine market is 'heavily reliant' on purchases made as part of a 'business obligation' by a group dubbed 'Prestige-seeking traditionalists'." That means that, for the most part, China is still sticking to Bordeaux and Burgundy as well as few choice Barolos.
But there is growth on the lower end. Between 2008 and 2011 wine exports from the EU to China rose by nearly 133 million liters. But in a strange twist of fate, it appears that China might pump the brakes on drinkers that are buying less expensive wine.
Yesterday Reuters reported that, "Chinese wine producers have asked the government to investigate whether winemakers in the European Union are dumping cheap wine in China."
Even in the post-Mao era Chinese economics are still insular to a degree; stricter regulation on imports would not be hard to imagine. So while it seems that Chinese producers have no problem with China's high-end buying habits, they'd really like it if the Chinese people bought their cheap wine, not Europe's.
If you've ever tasted inexpensive Chinese wine you'll know what a bummer this could be for China's less affluent wine buyers. In order to become a mature wine market, China will eventually have to support more growth outside of the blue chip market, but if they insist on building that interest via, say, Great Wall Cabernet, well ? that's just mean.
· Chinese producers see red over cheap European wine [Reuters]
· Chinese market still reliant on 'business purchases' [Decanter]
· All Wine Coverage on Eater [-E-]