HANGZHOU: International wine and drinks brands are expected to boost their presence in China this week when Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, hosts its inaugural 9.9 wine and spirits festival through to 9th September.

The event, which launched at the end of last week, features 100,000 wines, cognacs, whiskies and other drinks from 50 countries that are being showcased on Tmall.com, Alibaba's B2C online marketplace.

"We have worked closely with the industry to introduce a great diversity of high-quality wines and spirits from all over the world to Chinese consumers," said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba, in comments reported by Alizila.

The initiative, seen as evidence of Alibaba's wish to mirror the success of the 11.11 "Single's Day" online shopping event and bring it to a segment market, has been supported by a marketing campaign to generate buzz and the company expects 100m shoppers to take part, Decanter China reported.

Once just a niche market in China, popular only among the country's wealthy elite, wine has caught on with China's 152m middle-class consumers.

Alizila cited research from Wine Intelligence, a specialist UK-based firm, which has estimated that 48m Chinese consumers drank imported wine last year, a significant rise of 26% from 38m in 2014.

Wine Intelligence also found that Chinese consumers are drinking wine more frequently, with 35% partaking on a weekly basis last year compared with 23% in 2014.

With few physical outlets available to sell wine in China, the research firm expected e-commerce and online distribution channels to boost imports and bring greater choice to consumers.

"We believe Tmall will really help us to reach every corner of China, including cities where we have never been," said Nick He, China country manager for Gruppo Mezzacorona, a leading Italian winemaker.

Gruppo Mezzacorona is using a live video stream from its wineries in Italy to show Chinese consumers how wine is made and an interactive element will allow them to ask questions as the video streams.

Australian winemakers are also enthused about the Alibaba initiative, especially as China is now second only to the US as Australia's most valuable wine export market, China Daily reported.

"Our support of Tmall's flagship Australian wine store helps us capitalise on this growing interest in Australian wine and gives us the opportunity to further reinforce the message with consumers that wines of Australian provenance are of the highest quality," said Andreas Clark, CEO of Wine Australia.

Data sourced from Alizila, Decanter China, China Daily; additional content by Warc staff