SHANGHAI: Some 38m Chinese consumers currently drink wine, but the country's largest listed winemaker expects that number to grow at least tenfold and is massively expanding its plans to import wine from the vineyards it owns abroad.
Changyu Pioneer, which was founded as long ago as 1892, owns vineyards in China that cover a greater area than the French wine-growing region of Burgundy, but it also owns wineries in France and Spain.
It ships around 3m bottles a year from its Spanish properties and another 1m from France, but growing demand in China has prompted the company to increase annual imports from its European properties to 20m bottles over the next three to five years, the Financial Times reported.
"Right now, China is the fifth largest wine consumer in the world," said Sun Jian, Deputy General Manager at Changyu, while on a visit to Spain. "We believe in the future it will be the number one."
Changyu acquired Spanish brand Marqués del Atrio last year and Sun Jian predicted that production would double over the next five years, with much of it destined for China where Spanish wines are "seen as good but reasonably priced".
Indeed, China has now become the seventh largest market for Spanish wine, leading Rafael del Rey, Director of Spain's OEMV wine research body, to describe China's growth rates as "extraordinary".
But Changyu is not content just to boost sales in its home country, but is also working on plans to greatly increase sales of Chinese-made wines in Europe through sports sponsorship and marketing.
The company aims to raise the profile of its Marqués del Atrio brand after signing a sponsorship deal with La Liga, the Spanish football league, and also expects European sales of its Chinese-made wines to reach 2m bottles next year.
Data sourced from Financial Times, Sports Business; additional content by Warc staff