Thursday, December 10, 2009

China will be having the red, thank you

As I write, my piece on New Zealand wine is running at the second most read on the New York Times' Global Business section. I'm sure this won't last, but I did want to add a few things for anyone interested in the China market, one of the future growth opportunities New Zealand is targeting for its wines.

I did some research on Hong Kong's wine market as part of this piece, and learned that a whopping 78 percent of wine imported into Hong Kong is red. Japanese wine drinkers, I was told recently by a well known wine writer, apparently also prefer red, in part because it's obvious to passerby what it is in their glass - the whole point of conspicuous consumption. I don't know if Japanese (or Chinese) wine drinkers are that facile, and I haven't done any specific research on wine in the mainland, but I'd be willing to bet there is a similar preference for red, and probably (at least once you get out of the weeds of mainland-produced wines) for famous French red in China.

All of this makes New Zealand's attempt to transition out of sauvignon blanc, which accounted for 81 percent of exports last year, that much more important. New Zealand's pinot noirs are not well known in Asia, though to me at least, many are excellent (she says as though she knows anything about wine!). There is a long marketing and brand-building road ahead, and maybe one conclusion is: as New Zealand's wine industry looks to the Chinese market, the more boutique, the more exclusive, the more expensive, the better.

For evidence that the New Zealand wine industry is hungry for better international exposure, see here.