A growing number of middle class Chinese are discovering a taste for French wine, with sales experiencing triple-digit growth last year, trade figures have shown.
Sales of French wine grew 145 percent last year, the French Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters said on Wednesday.
A shop assistant stands in front of a wine display at a supermarket in Shanghai earlier this month. Jing Wei
The growth in sales of French cognac and other spirits was equally high: Up 162 percent year-on-year by value, making China the third-largest market for the products, behind the United States and Singapore.
Chinese tipplers spent almost 247 million euros ($364 million) on French wines and spirits last year, making the country the 11th-largest market by value.
Barely a decade ago, the only wine available to Chinese consumers - outside top hotels, restaurants and stores - was locally made plonk.
Wang Zuming, general secretary of the Wine Branch Association of the China Beverages Association, said sales of all wines in China grew by 30 percent last year.
Jacques Menier, Asia Pacific sales director of cognac maker Martell, said at a recent promotional event the similarities between cognac and Chinese spirits has helped boost sales.
At the Shuangjing branch of Carrefour in Beijing, there are more than 1,000 wines on sale, with French varieties accounting for half of all sales, Charles Delamalle, director of Sopexa, an organization that promotes French food and wine, said.
"Most Chinese buyers are businesspeople," he said.
"But more and more Chinese are trying foreign wines."
A survey released by MasterCard Worldwide on Tuesday, also said French wines were by far the preferred choice of Chinese consumers, followed by Italian and domestic varieties.
"People who don't know much about wine tend to buy cheap Chinese varieties," Jenny Zhang, a 36-year-old Beijing resident, said.
"But those who buy wine for its taste prefer foreign ones."
(Agencies via China Daily February 22, 2008)