How to sell Italian wine in China is a topic that is very close to my heart, especially after Vinitaly 2016 and Jack Ma's promises to Matteo Renzi... and the latest wine-themed website I have created: which helps Italian producers sell their wine in China thanks to a series of reliable partners on the spot and a rich database of Asian importers.

China is the largest wine market in the world, and it is no coincidence that the 50th edition of Vinitaly stressed the importance of conquering it. Premier Matteo Renzi met the Chinese Jack Mafounder of Alibabain a debate on the future of wine and the digital challenge, moderated by the editor of RepubblicaMario Calabresi. The potential is enormous, because China already has a middle class of over 300 million people. France, with its 55%, came first compared to Italy, which occupies only 6% of this huge market. TASTEvie's objective is to shorten the distance thanks to the agreements it has undertaken with thousands of Chinese distributors who are eager to discover your company and purchase your wines on our online wine store.

So when Federico Sferrazza of Daxue Research, an important Chinese company with bases in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, which deals with market research using an international team and whose clients include Samsung, Carrefur, Inter Rhône, PayPal, Marc Jacobs, the Swiss Government, the Mexican Government and the European Union (to name but a few), and which is mentioned in the Financial Times, Le Monde and other newspapers around the world, contacted me again to propose publications on the sale of Italian wine in China.

The topic I wanted to explore with them is the new wine consumption trends in China, in order to understand how Italian wine consumption in particular can be included within these.

But let's start in order, what is currently happening in China?

The wine market in China continues to be affected by government austerity measures, the country's economic slowdown and the anti-corruption campaign, according to a brand new study by Vinexpo/IWSR. A recently published study by the same company found that individuals with the ability to drink wine in China consumed almost 132 million 9-litre cases of red wine in 2015, 7 million less than in 2014 and almost 17 million less than in 2013. According to Li Demei, Associate Professor of Wine Tasting and Enology at the Collage of Agriculture in Beijing, the rapid growth of the wine market in previous years 'was not fully supported by real market needs, and as soon as the central government changed its policies, many distributors exited the market'. This answers the question that I have all too often heard asked by Italian wine producers I know: How to retain the Chinese importer? They all told me an experience that seemed almost 'scripted': large orders paid for by advance transfer that gave hope for a bright future, and then never heard from again.

Curious that this drop occurred when Chinese customs data for the first 9 months of 2015 indicated that wine imports increased by 38.7% in volume, with almost 300 million litres for a total value of about USD 1.4 billion. No?

French and Australian wines dominated the import market, with French wine imports surpassing 36% in volume and 34% in value at over USD 623 million. However, these numbers remain lower than in the pre-austerity period... and let's face it: experts are not expecting a full recovery of the wine market in China in 2016... so you may be asking yourself... "what are Renzi and Jack Ma quacking about?"

The austerity situation in which China is now navigating has made it even more difficult to penetrate this market... and that is why, for example, TASTEvie was born, an Italian start-up that acts as a bridge between Italian wineries and Chinese distributors, even taking care of shipping and freeing wine cellars of all worries!

And do you know why? Even though recent market research in China shows that prices and retail values will continue to fall in the coming years, Chinese domestic wines are making inroads covering about 80% of the wines consumed in China in 2014, Made in Italy is the brand par excellence in the eyes of the Chinese and it is fashionable and a status symbol to sip an Italian bubbly at the bar.

Red wine, despite having been the first choice for a very long time, finds itself losing as much as 4.9% in the last 5 years to bubbles and dessert wines, much preferred by Chinese wine consumers. In particular, Metodo Classico and Prosecco play a leading role in today's wine consumption trend in China... so if you have a wine cellar and produce bubbles or sweet wines, you just have to ride the wave on TASTEvie!

Experts claim that from 2017 onwards the market will grow sales, with a forecast growth of 5% every year until 2020, and that the category with the greatest potential is wine sold at a mid-range price compared to the high-end labels that have dominated the market to date. In fact, Chinese consumers, with a greater awareness of value for money, will be able to seek out better bottles without spending the crazy sums of Australian wines, but above all, wine consumption will move from being more of a fad than anything else, to being born out of a real appreciation of what is in the glass.

Indeed, with the growth of the middle class, China is developing more and more interest in wine and many companies that previously focused on high-end wines are moving to mid-range wines to meet the new market demands.

Another tidbit: did you know that the Chinese prefer sumptuous, colourful bottles? In my opinion, the future of Italian wine in China lies in a niche that has perhaps been neglected until now: that of rosés. You know, before you buy the contents you buy the package... and the transparent or satin-finished bottles containing this bright pink wine are certainly irresistible to this people so fascinated by certain sparkles. After all, they are for many of us Italians too! 😉

In short, provided we move carefully, China is no longer a mirage for Italian wine, which has the right characteristics to penetrate a market hitherto reserved for France and Australia.

Certainly Alessandro, founder of TASTEvie and I will do everything we can to realise the 'Italian Dream' of Wine in China!

Thanks again to Federico Sferrazza of Daxue Research for giving me the opportunity to write this article.

See you soon,


P.S. If you are interested in selling Italian wine in China, I recommend reading these insights:

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