Exporters see bright future for wine sales
Australian wine exporters are looking to cash in on the Chinese market after the two countries finalized negotiations on a landmark free trade agreement.
Under the deal, which was announced on Monday during President Xi Jinping's visit, Australian products, including wine, will enjoy easier access to the Chinese market while offering more competitive prices to Chinese consumers.
Australian wine sales in China exceed A$200 billion ($174 billion) on average each year, with tariff levels of between 14 and 30 percent, which will be exempt in four years.
"It is good for Chinese consumers to have easier access to cheaper but quality Australian wines," said Shen Ye, general manager of S&S Australia Group.
Her company is a major agent for McGuigan wine in China, which is produced by Australian Vintage, one of the leading Australian wine producers.
Shen's company exports an average of 140,000 bottles of Australian wine to China annually. She is impressed by the increasing maturity shown by Chinese consumers in enjoying wine in recent years.
"Years ago, Chinese used to drink red wine with cola, but today people have learned to enjoy the pure taste of wines," she said.
"Wines are no longer seen as a luxury that only the rich can afford. With more low-priced imported wines making their debut in the Chinese market, wine has assumed a regular presence on many people's dinner tables."
Shen added, "Along with the pursuit of healthier lifestyles, replacing strong liquor with wine is becoming a trend in China. Sipping wine is being viewed as a symbol of a quality lifestyle.
"Wines, especially imported ones, have increasingly become a necessity for wedding banquets across China, especially in economically affluent areas."
A full range of Australian wines target both high-end and low-end consumers. Thanks to its natural environment and high-quality grape varieties, the country has emerged as a leading producer and exporter of new world wines.
Both high-end and low-end Australian wines have gained popularity in China in recent years.
Kent Gao, general manager of ANZ Brothers International, an Australian company that trades with China, used to export wine that was only aimed at high-end consumers in China.
(China Daily 11/20/2014 page2)