Booming Chinese wine market spawns bulk specialists

China’s bullish demand for wine has spawned a growing industry of bulk wine business that specialise in creating commercial wines specially tailored for the Chinese market.

Chile, China’s third largest source for imported wine, is among the countries that have embraced this commercial trend, according to a report by Vinex, thanks to a surge in exports and a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.

Chile remained China’s biggest source for bulk wine for years until 2017 when it was overtaken by Spain. The country exported more than 56 million litres of bulk wine to China in 2017, according to customs data, behind Spain’s 63 million litres. About two thirds of Chile’s wine exports to China consist of bulk wine.

The growth of bulk wine in the country has helped grow companies that are contracted to design and bottle bulk wines for the domestic market, Chile’s leading winery Santa Rita revealed in the report.

Commenting on the trend, Santa Rita Estates’ marketing director Jaime de la Barra, told Vinex that one company alone is currently supplying 359 brands in China. “These companies are becoming specialist operators in China. But of those 359 brands the largest is only 8,000 cases and the smallest brand is only selling four. They are, though, very efficient, flexible with specialist designer teams creating the right labels,” he said.

According to him, Santa Rita does do some “tactical branding” in China.

The specialist contractors overlap with the country’s fast growing OEM wines as well, where distributors or wine merchants in China buy bulk wines from other countries to design and bottle wines that suit domestic consumer preferences, often at much cheaper prices, lending them the moniker ‘one-euro’ wine.

In 2017, China imported about 180.6 million litres of bulk wine in total, valued at US$158.89 million, representing a year-on-year growth of 25.5% in volume and 40.8% rise in value, according to Chinese customs figures.

China is also hosting the 2019 International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show (IBWSS) in November in Shanghai.

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