China's increasing thirst attracting foreign wine

From The Associated Press

HONG KONG -- As growth slows in their traditional markets winemakers from around the world are eager to tap demand in China, but industry players say the increased competition and a lack of wine-drinking culture mean it won't be easy money.

Thousands of people attending a major wine and spirits trade fair here last week sipped and spat countless vintages made by producers ranging from boutique vineyards in New Zealand to famed chateaux from France's Bordeaux region. Others were in town to attend a wine conference that featured speakers including Hollywood director [and California winemaker] Francis Ford Coppola.

Many are keen to get a foothold in China's wine market, which has taken off in recent years, particularly at the high end, as newly-wealthy collectors splurge for bottles of fine French wines at auctions in Hong Kong. The southern Chinese city abolished wine import duties in 2008 in a bid to become a regional wine center and imports surged by nearly 60 percent in the first nine months of 2011 to $940 million. ...

• Year's biggest wine auction nets $14.5 million in Hong Kong.

China is the world's fastest growing market for still light wine and is forecast this year to overtake Britain as the fifth biggest market, according to a September report by UK-based International Wine and Spirit Research. The report forecast that China's wine consumption will double to 250 million 12-bottle cases by 2016, from 125 million in 2010.

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