Amidst China’s anti-extravagance crackdown, wine is replacing baijiu as the drink of choice at banquets.
Last month, China surpassed France and Italy to become the world’s largest consumer of red wine with Chinese tipplers consuming 1.865 billion bottles of red wine in 2013. This marks a 136 percent increase in consumption over five years.
Wine is rapidly replacing spirits at business banquets, and Chinese businessman reportedly prefer red wine to white because red is the color of good fortune (hence the hongbao) while white is the color of death. They also extoll its health benefits compared to those of spirits, namely its purported ability to prevent obesity, diabetes, ans heart disease. Flavor doesn’t seem play that big a part. So all you companies holding pairing dinners that match Cabernet with things like mapo doufu to woo Chinese tipplers, are probably just embarrassing yourselves.
China is also buying up vast tracts of wine land in France, China Daily reports:
Earlier reports said that an average of one Bordeaux chateau per month has been sold to a Chinese investor in recent years. Last year 50 vineyards in Bordeaux were bought by Chinese.
“People who are buying Bordeaux chateaux want to service the market because domestic production cannot apparently meet the growing appetite in China,” said Li Demei, a wine consultant and a lecturer at Beijing University of Agriculture.
The decrease in European consumption came amid an increase in shipments to China, with the country importing seven times more wine in the past five years, the report said.
According to Chinese Customs, red wine imports from January to October rose 31.4 percent to 311 million liters and the value of these imports rose 68.2 percent to $1.67 billion.
Meanwhile, baijiu is floundering with Moutai reporting its weakest first-half profit growth since 2001 and Wuliangye experiencing its slowest profit growth since 2005. And we doubt they’ll be able to tap into Western tastes and culture like wine did Chinese, what with their lack of health benefits or auspicious coloring. Not to mention an of-putting flavor to the Western palate.