Wine to China

Trends and opportunities

The Market

After a significant decline in volume since 2012 due to the impact of the government’s anti-extravagance campaign, Chinese wine imports show signs of slow recovery in 2015. By the end of September 2015, Australian bottled wine exports to China increased by 47 per cent in value to A$313 million and by 58 per cent in volume to 59 million litres, compared to the same period in 2014. (Source: Wine Australia)

Volume and value of exports to China over time

volume and value of exports to China

(Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 'Composition of Trade', 30 December 2015)

French wines still dominate the market, representing 48 per cent of the market share in volume, while Australia takes only 14 per cent of total volume (23 per cent of total value) for bottled wines. The average value of bottled exports of US$7.52 per litre (Source: Wine Australia). This demonstrates the growing recognition of Australian middle to premium wines among Chinese consumers.

bottled wine imports to China

(Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 'Composition of Trade', 30 December 2015)

Market trends include:

  • Wine consumption in China reached 4.45 billion litres in 2015 (Source: Euromonitor International). New world wines are more easily accepted by consumers because it is easy for the market to understand product classification.
  • Australian Wine is also well received by the market due to varied price points, stable quality, continuous marketing, industry star rating, etc.
  • Importers gained confidence from the implementation of CHAFTA in late 2015. The reduction of tariffs also makes Australian wines more competitive in the market.
  • Chinese middle class consumers are the main market for higher value Australian wines. Their importance lies in their long-term, stable purchasing power, brand awareness and influence on those around them, making them the true driving force of the consumer market in the wine industry.
  • The younger generation and female consumers are leading the new trend in sparkling, white and sweet wines in the market. As of June 2014, imported sparkling wines in China increased 45 per cent by volume and 39 per cent by value compared to the same period last year, while the total imported bottled wine volume dropped by 12.8 per cent. As sparkling wine occupies just three per cent of total import volume, its impact is at this stage is limited, although affordable prices and trendy lifestyles should prompt further growth in this sector. (Source: Market analysis on China Import Wine for First Half of 2014, China Wine Info, 5 Aug 2014)
  • Wine makers adjust their product portfolios to meet the needs of the market in providing more affordable wines. OEM mid-end wines are seen in the market for distributors to sell in the off trade channels.
  • Chinese distillers and distributors have begun to OEM their grape wine brands to fix the loss of sales in the rice wine market through existing distribution channels.

Competitive Environment

France still dominates the wine market with a share of 48 per cent, while Australia has about 14 per cent and is the second largest wine exporter by value and third by volume in 2015.

Chile enjoyed a tariff reduction in 2014 and the volume of Chilean wines increased by 52.8 per cent in the first half of 2014, with the average price per litre about US$3.60. Spanish wine is another competitor at a lower price level. (Source: Euromonitor International)

The best sales in supermarkets are imported wines from RMB60-180.

One major challenge is that Chinese consumers switch from one brand to another rather quickly, exhibiting little brand loyalty. Online sales particularly enable the consumers to source and purchase budget wines.

Wineries that will most benefit from growth in China will be those that demonstrate patience, professional service while building brand awareness and a long term strategy to develop the market with their Chinese partners.

Tariffs, regulations and customs

The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) came into effect on 20 December 2015, and the existing tariffs on wine of 14 to 20 per cent will be eliminated within the coming years. Importers and distributors expect rapid growth in Australian wine sales as a result of ChAFTA.

ChAFTA product tariff rates are available through an online tool available at https://ftaportal.dfat.gov.au/

The calculation methods are as follows:

Total import tax = ICD + VAT + CT (VAT rate: 17 per cent; CT rate: 10 per cent)

  1. ICD/Import customs duty: CIF value x ICD rate
  2. VAT/Value-added tax: (CIF value + ICD + CT) x VAT rate
  3. CT/Consumption tax: (CIF value + ICD) / (1 - CT rate) x CT rate

For more details on ChAFTA tariff schedules, see the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. Wine Australia has China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Templates to assist with accessing preferential tariff reductions under ChAFTA.

For other regulations, please visit Australian Grape and Wine Authority which works closely with Austrade to promote a unified message in the market, covering both Australian wine industry marketing and education.

Marketing your products and services

Market entry

To enter the wine market, the following should be considered:

  • Identify one national agent or several regional agents/distributors to co-operate with as marketing partners.
  • Analyse the market comprehensively to define the target market segments for your wines.
  • Differentiate your wine retailing, by defining what might work best via e-commerce channels and traditional channels.
  • Commit to the market by providing related Chinese language marketing materials, frequent market visits to support importers/distributors, establish regular training sessions for distributors, etc.
  • Participate in key industry events to build up your brand in the market.

Distribution Channels

While direct trade sales have shrunk, off trade channels such as supermarkets, wine cellars, convenience stores, and spirit and alcohol stores now play an important role in the market. Online to offline (O2O) is the trendy model for wine and spirit distribution, making the price of import wines more transparent and affordable. Restaurants and wine bars are also seeing increased wine consumption due to changing consumer lifestyle and health choices. Online sales are becoming popular, especially for brands well-known to consumers.

Sophisticated wine consumers who exhibit brand loyalty tend to purchase wine via online channels for value for money. Current methods of distribution through both physical and online sales must be protected to establish brand-awareness for both the importer and Australian exporter.

Major online platforms for wines and spirits include:

WeChat and Weibo are other crucial social media platforms to promote wine education and sales.

Austrade’s e-commerce in China: A guide for Australian business offers practical advice, facts and insights on how China’s e-commerce marketplaces work and how to access them.

Rapid growth in internet retailing is also expected to boost the off-trade sales of wines on online platforms, leaving their offline stores for primarily tasting and storage purpose.

Market segmentation

The market can be roughly classified into three segments according to free on board (FOB) price:

  1. Lower-end, entry price: A$30 to A$84 per dozen
  2. Middle to premium price: A$84 to A$240 per dozen
  3. Ultra-premium price range and collectables: A$240+ per dozen.

Market preference

China’s large population and vast area have created differing palates and consumption habits from region to region.

Generally speaking, consumers in north China prefer full-bodied and higher alcohol content wines, while in south China lighter, more refreshing wines are preferred. This is linked to different traditional cuisines and dining habits.

Due to its health benefits, red wine still prevails in the market and forms 90 per cent of overall wine consumption. Consumers from the coastal areas have a better palate for white wines to complement seafood consumption. The trends for wine bottle and label design preferences have also been well documented. Generally, consumers prefer:

  • elegant bottle shapes and label designs
  • screw caps that are acceptable to regular Australian wine consumers
  • complementary gift boxes and corks when purchasing more expensive wines
  • six bottles per case (as opposed to twelve).

Trade events

The major wine related events in mainland China include:

SIAL China: A comprehensive exhibition for imported food and beverage products in Shanghai, having run for the past 15 years.

FHC and Prowine China: The two events are held simultaneously with FHC, the Premier Business Exhibition for the global food and hospitality sector having run for the past 22 years, and Prownie China having inaugural event in 2013. The event primarily attracts visitors from both Eastern and Northern China.

TopWine China: A Beijing based imported wine show that started in 2010. The event primarily attracts consumers from Northern China.

InterWine Guangzhou: The Guangzhou International Wine & Spirits Exhibition started in 2005 and is the most popular import wine fair in the Pearl River Delta area, and Southern China at large.

CFDF: A Food & Drinks Fair held since 1955, and is the most influential food and drinks exhibition in China. Although it is largely dominated by domestic food products, the share of international wines has experienced remarkable growth.

For more information on China programs, please visit www.wineaustralia.com

Links and industry contacts

Wine Australia export market guide

Contact details

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Austrade – contributes to Australia's economic prosperity by helping Australian businesses, education institutions, tourism operators, governments and citizens as they:

  • develop international markets
  • win productive foreign direct investment
  • promote international education
  • strengthen Australia's tourism industry
  • seek consular and passport services.

Working in partnership with Australian state and territory governments, Austrade provides information and advice that can help Australian companies reduce the time, cost and risk of exporting. We also administer the Export Market Development Grant Scheme and offer a range of services to Australian exporters in growth and emerging markets.