Dec 3, 2022 - Economy & Business

In China, a waning thirst for wine

Data: OIV Database; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chinese wine consumption last year totaled just 10.5m hectoliters. That's the lowest number since 1997, when China's population was 200 million smaller and its GDP was a mere 5% of its 2021 size.

Why it matters: Until 2013, China was considered the inevitable home of the future wine market. That now looks much less likely.

The big picture: In most of the world, wine sales are overwhelmingly to people who want to drink the stuff. That's not the case in China, where only about 2.5% of adults drink wine at least once a month.

  • Instead, most wine is bought by people who don't intend to drink it. Instead, they give it away as gifts, during festivals like Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Singles Day.
  • The pandemic caused massive disruption to Chinese gift-giving, as wine fell out of favor. Perhaps people realized the recipients weren't drinking their gifts.

The bottom line: Just as in the rest of the world, people who drink wine at home ended up drinking more of it during the pandemic. But so far there's no indication that China's population is going to become a global force in the wine world.

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