Bright Lights beyond Beijing

The lucrative Chinese market is well known to winemakers, but much of its potential lies in the less-affluent regions, writes Mark Graham

The most affluent cities in China have bustling wine bars, supermarket shelves stocked with a decent array of imported labels, and a rapidly growing number of foreign wine distributors keen to capitalize on the surging demand from the ever more wealthy population.

But venture beyond the richest metropoleis – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, all located along the eastern seaboard – and the picture is rather different. For most of the 1.3 billion Chinese, wine drinking remains an impossibly exotic pastime, reflected in the nation’s frugal consumption of just over one billion bottles annually.

Outside the main cities, if the Chinese drink at all – and bear in mind that this is still a poor nation with per capita average urban income of £1,600, significantly less in the countryside – it is likely to be beer, or the foul tasting, awful smelling grain liquor, bai jiu, which is cheap and potent. A supermarket standby such as Wolf Blass Yellow Label would cost around £16 in China, double the price of the UK and way beyond the reach of Joe Public.

But the one constant in the contemporary Chinese wine business is change – incredibly rapid change that is seeing sales rocket. Most importers, already well established in the affluent eastern-seaboard cities of the vast nation, see the so-called second and third tier cities as the places where the quickest growth will take place in years to come.

In practical terms, that means serious legwork for distributors in the less- glamorous industrial cities of the interior, educating would-be drinkers in urban centres that have no resonance outside China, even though they may have populations of three, four and five million. The fast-growing urban centers of Chengdu, Dalian, Hunan and Chongqing all have a core of nouveau rich consumers keen to add wine drinking to their portfolio of affordable extravagances.

2 Responses to “Bright Lights beyond Beijing”

  1. gary says:

    eehh.. is this article supposed to be news? or regurgitation of 2-year old information..?

  2. This article is spot on. We are finding that the 1st tier cities are becoming so saturated now that the true growth lies in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities and educating the new Chinese consumer. When they recognize what they are drinking wine will sell itself.

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