Who is the biggest consumer of red wine in the world? The Chinese. They drank over 1865 bottles last year. One glass at a time, the Asian giant made an historic step, outdoing France (second) and Italy (third) in the world placement for the biggest consumer of the wine with a “lucky” color. Ruby red stands for good luck: it’s the meaning of the color in China, and it’s not just a superficial fact, it’s deeply ingrained in their culture.
Red wine is therefore perfect for ceremonies and feasts, it brings luck, power, fortune – the national color signifies all that – and these are the three fundamental values at the core of a good business relationship. There is another color at stake: pink. Pink means female. Drinking has changed in China in the past years. If it used to be only men drinking alcohol, especially in the North – where it’s cold – now even women drink a glass or two during ceremonies and parties, and for young people living in urban cities it’s become a rite of passage. The tendency is to copy Westerners in their habits and disdain local drinks such as the baiju.
China became passionate about red wine in 2005, less than a decade ago. It became mostly popular among rich and educated people. Wine tastings started to flourish, and more and more retailers started to establish themselves in the cities to meet the demand. However, most consumers were still not experts in wine and especially good wine (it’s not rare to see a good bottle of wine mixed with soft drinks).
The peak was reached between 2007 and 2013: +176% of consumption. Right at that time, Italy was drinking 5.8% less than usual, while France was plummeting down a good 18%. China became a wonderful new market able to relieve French producers. It’s been a few years since the USA is the n°1 wine consumer in the world, (if we consider all wines).
White means death in China, which means Vermentino or Chardonnay are not as successful as Barolo and Bordeaux, and if we take into consideration all types of wine, China comes fifth. The study by International Wine&Spirit Research for VINEXPO, also says that China will keep growing 33.8% until 2017, it will grow by 20% in Asia, by 9% in the States, whereas Europe will remain stagnant. It’s not just about taste (which needs to be educated) or health (wine grapes are better than alcohol made from rice consumed in large quantities), the truth is, Chinese are drawn to the color of red wine because of their culture and society, and they will never stop yearning for good fortune and luck.