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Wine-market perseverance in a rocky 2021 augurs well for 2022 by John H. Isacs27/12/2021  


About the best thing we can say about 2021 is that it was better than 2020. This is true in general, and also true for the Chinese wine and spirits market. In 2021, French wines regained their top position, Chilean wines continued to make market strides, Italian wines picked up steam and Australian wine prospects remained in limbo. American wines enjoyed a modest resurgence as punitive tariffs were lowered and pre-trade-war inventories needed replenishment. Domestic-made wines also progressed.

In the domestic spirits market, baijiu remained king, scotch and Japanese single malt whiskies continued their hot streak, cognac and other prestigious brandies retained their loyalists, while premium gins, vodkas, rums, tequilas and other spirits further solidified their niche markets. For expert insight into market happenings in 2021, I turned to three influential insiders.

Luna Yang, general manager of Silver9 Yinchuan, a leading domestic wine buyer and emerging brand, is realistic yet still optimistic.

"To say that selling wine in China in 2021 and quite frankly over the past three or four years has been challenging is a gross understatement. International and domestic production and transportation costs rose, and we can expect even higher costs in 2022. But despite the obvious obstacles, the best Chinese and internationally produced wines still managed to maintain or gain market share," Yang said.

One of the most astute Chinese wine market observers, Mia Zhang, director of PR and communications at the Beijing International Wine and Spirits Exchange, shares Yang's cautious optimism.

"We estimate the overall size of the Chinese wine market will grow in 2021 by nearly 7 percent to around 110 billion yuan (US$17.27 billion) by the end of this year. Wine 'made in China' is definitely among the top emerging trends in the Chinese wine market in 2021," Zhang said.

She also pointed to a rapidly emerging 2021 spirits-related trend.

"The market for low alcohol, can-packaged RTD cocktails is booming, with the nation's biggest baijiu players joining the competitive fray. In fact, Xiaozui, a baijiu-based RTD cocktail that's been on the market for less than five months, is rated the number one RTD cocktail seller at Alibaba's retail chain Fresh Hippo," Zhang said.

For another perspective on 2021 wine trends, I turned to Francisco Henriques, general manager of China Wine and Spirits, one of China's largest and most successful importers.

"Many new wines entered the China market this year, and as always the consistently high-quality wines performed best. In particular, Mediterranean wines from Italy, Portugal and Spain gained greater acceptance and market share," Henriques said.

He also saw exciting new opportunities for niche spirits like calvados in first-tier developed markets like Shanghai, a palate-pleasing, intriguing spirit that is my focus this week.