It's no secret that Chinese wine consumption has fallen dramatically over the past years. In 2023, the wine import volume (243 million liters) and value (about 1.080 billion US dollars) fell respectively by about 25% and 19% year on year. Of course, January 2023 was majorly affected by the peak period of the pandemic in the last months of 2022, when a large number of wine promoting activities have stopped, leading importers to avoid hoarding in large quantities.
Kym Anderson, one of the world's most relevant wine academics, agrees on the lockdown playing a major role in this situation: wine consumption in China is predominantly still an on-trade social activity. He also raises the possibility that falling wine sales might be explained by the kind of premiumisation experienced in the US. Maybe, like the Americans, the Chinese are simply drinking less but better.
Actually, according to WBO’s survey, festivals are still stimulating wine consumption. Mid Autumn, National Day or similar festivities offer the perfect opportunity to put on the market customized gift boxes and to upgrade marketing activities.
As far as Italian imported wines are concerned, there is a slowdown in China, with a loss in volume of -8.3% over the first seven months of 2023, stopping at 58.6 million euros.
Despite going through this phase, China remains a large market that is highly relevant for Italian wine exporters. It is also worth noticing that the last months of 2023 have marked a stable rebound process for wine imports –especially white wines– so that is reasonable to count on an acceleration in inventory selling for the coming New Year festival.
“Culturally speaking, Chinese people save more and spend less, and the negative trend in the economy accentuates this habit.” says Gabriele Falcone, co-founder of Virgilio Creating Value, the consultancy firm operating as a branch office in Asia for western brands, “However, the Government has all the tools to infuse new life to the market, therefore a rebound in wine consumption is foreseeable in the short to medium term. This will bring new opportunities for wine companies willing to export to China.”