China already has the world’s largest population and the second-largest economy, so it won’t come as a surprise that those Chinese with increasingly more wealth have now become the world’s top consumers of red wine.
The Chinese drank 1.865 billion bottles of red wine last year, which in trade terms is equal to 155 million nine-liter cases, contributing to a 136 percent increase in consumption over five years, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The United States remains the world’s biggest consumer of all types of wines.
France is now bumped to second place for red wine consumption, while Italy is the third-largest red wine consumer, according to Vinexpo, a Bordeaux wine and spirits trade association, which cited figures compiled by London-based International Wine and Spirit Research, an independent research firm for the liquor trade.
Guillaume Deglise, the new CEO of Vinexpo, attributed the massive surge in popularity of red wine in China, apart from increasing affluence, to the Chinese preference for the color red over white. Red is considered an auspicious color in the Chinese culture, and is used for happy occasions such as weddings, while white is traditionally worn for funerals.
"Red is the color of luck and good fortune and white is the color of death,” Deglise told Reuters. "So you don't want to drink white, why would you?"
But as the market matures, Deglise said consumption of white wines and champagne will likely increase as well. China is the fifth-largest consumer of all types of wines.
With demand of wine at an all-time high, the Chinese are rapidly increasing their domestic wine-growing surface area. China already boasts more hectares of vineyards than the U.S., and the aggressive expansion has even come at the expense of the nation’s beloved mascot, the giant pandas.
In 2011, the U.S. became the top wine consumer in the world, and American consumption is expected to hit 385 million cases by 2017.