Tier 1 trends in China

There are signs that engaged Chinese consumers are looking beyond red wines from traditional regions. Jim Boyce reports.

Beijing (Photo by Tom Winckels on Unsplash)
Beijing (Photo by Tom Winckels on Unsplash)

"Finally, we sold a bloody bottle of rosé.” Matt Bahen, the Greater China sales general manager for De Bortoli, is feeling good about China.

De Bortoli excels in wine that is the “antithesis of the China wine market” and its general obsession with Bordeaux and big fruity New World reds. For De Bortoli reds, he says, think of Pinot Noir and other lighter styles, along with rosé, sweet wines and fortified. All under screw caps. Not exactly a list of “greatest hits” for wine in China. But things are changing, as that rosé sale indicates, especially in Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. 

Bahen, who has also worked at distributors ASC and The Wine Republic, says his sweet wine sales are up 100%, that white sales are rising twice as fast as red, and that among the reds, Pinot is moving. He’s bringing in premium Moscatos and says his most exciting product is rosé. “I’ve always said that it’s silly to chase,” says Bahen. “We just have to be confident that as the market evolves, our styles will become popular.”

He’s not alone in seeing shifts in first-tier cities. Those aforementioned reds, ranging from cheap OEMs [original equipment manufacturer or private label wines] to très expensive big name brands, still dominate, especially among older buyers and the entertaining and gift-giving crowd. But “diversity” is now being heard among the trade.

 

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