Back to Industry News List >>

Mar 13, 2013

China Customs has released its wine import statistics for 2012. While the figures are not perfect, they do provide a snapshot of what’s happening in the Middle Kingdom. Jim Boyce got out his calculator to figure out what’s hot and what’s not.

A half-dozen years of sizzling growth in China came to an end in 2012, as wine imports grew 10% by volume and 16% by value, according to Customs statistics. Those figures might be considered hot in most markets, but in China they’re simply lukewarm, given that annual growth has ranged from 32% to 109% since 2006. Blame it on a slowing economy, on years of growing stock, on efforts to reduce spending by officials, or on any other factor, but the market has cooled. And while Customs numbers tend to be more reliable in terms of volume than of value – the latter can be affected by the smuggling of pricey wines and the under-reporting of wines that are claimed – they give a general market sense.

Volume rose 10.2% to 266.2m L, from 241.4m L in 2011. The 20 sources for wine – from Chile to South Africa to New Zealand to Romania – all saw growth, except for Germany, which dropped 4.6%. Things were rosier in terms of value with a 16.3% rise to €1.07bn ($xxbn) from €920m in 2011. The top 20 all gained here, too, save for a 0.5% drop for Germany. Meanwhile, sparkling wine bubbled with a year-on-year gain of 60%. Bulk wine was flat with a 1% gain.

France rules

French importers continued their expansion beyond traditional markets such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing, into more remote markets. Growth was modest in 2012 at about 7.9% but came from a huge base – rising to 127.2m L from 117.9m L – and represented a 47.8% share. The value story is more pronounced as growth of 11% translated to value of €565.5m, up from €509.7m in 2011. The scariest thing for France’s competitors is these numbers are most likely understated, given top French wines are prime candidates for smuggling. For the near future, France will dominate the bottled wine imports.

Customs lists 17 countries that export at least €10m worth of wine to China. Six them – France Australia, Spain, Chile, Italy and the US – dominate the market. The ‘Big Six’ consistently hold 90% of market share; last year they accounted for 90.5% of volume and 90.4% of value. Australia ranks second in terms of volume but has steadily lost share after years of taking 20%. In 2012, imports grew 3.9% to 33.9m L, but its share dropped to 12.7%, as compared to 13.5% in 2011 and 16.2% just two years ago. Value is a different story, as Australian imports jumped by 15.7% to €161.9m, up from €140m in 2011.

It was the opposite situation for Spain, the number three source by volume. It saw the fastest growth of the big six in 2012, rising nearly 40.7% by volume to grab 10% of the market. This was after nearly 100% growth in 2011. The difference is in value: Spain also has the lowest value per bottle of the big six. The value of Spanish imports rose 37% last year to €61m in 2012 from €45m in 2011; that translate to a mere €2.30 per L, as opposed to €4.70 per L for Australia.

China became the second-biggest market, after the US, for imports from Peru, which were up 57.8% last year. While it sounds impressive, these imported totalled a mere 17,000 L at €90,000. Nevertheless, countries outside the Big Six are growing year to year: South Africa, Argentina, Portugal, Germany and New Zealand were the source of 2.5m to 4.7m L in 2012. Each had a market share of 1% to 2%, while Moldova, Canada, Romania, Hungary and Georgia collectively represented 1.2m L, or a quarter to a half percent share. The volumes may be small, but they’re growing.

New Zealand continues to have a strong combination of value and volume, ranking eleventh by volume with 2.5m L, up 26.6% from the 1.97m L it posted in 2011. In 2012, value rose to €18.4m, up 38.4% over €13.3m in 2011. That translates to an envious €7.40 per L – and a niche that other countries would love to have.

Sparkling and bulk

The sparkling wine sector had far more pop in 2012 and rose 59.8% to 6.3m L from 3.94m L in 2011. France led with a 35.5% share, followed by Italy at 31.8%, then Australia at 10.5%, Spain at 6.9% and Germany at 6.4%. No other country had more than 2.5% of the market.

And value grew even faster, up 68.7% to €47.2m from €28m in 2011. Once again, France was dominant, with a whopping 73.2% of market share, followed by Italy at 12.2%, Australia at 5.7%, Spain at 3% and Germany at 2.2%: each represented at least €1m in value. Nevertheless, sparkling was only equal to 2.5% of imported still wine by volume or value.

Bulk wine imports were flat in 2012, up just 1% to 121.5m L and below the 137.1m L of 2010. This is a two-nation game, with Spain at 36% and Chile at 33% by volume. The only other sources over 5% were Italy at 9.1%, France at 8.5% and Australia at 6.7%. Notably, Australia was a major player two years ago with 23.8%. Chile might trail slightly in volume but has 41.9% of market share by value, nearly double that of Spain at 22.1%, followed by Australia at 11.1%, France at 11% and Italy at 7.5%. Don’t be surprised to open bottles from some of the major producers here and find they seem slightly reminiscent of a Chilean or Spanish red.


Source - Meininger's