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This is Story in the Story.
Red wine paired with Peking duck might be popular in Beijing or Shanghai, but Italian vineyards are aiming to make it more common throughout China.
Q1 numbers for 2018 revealed Italy is currently the fourth-largest wine exporter to China with an estimated value of $56 million, accounting for a seven percent market share, according to World Trade Atlas.
Although French red wine still dominates the Chinese market, Italian vino saw a higher growth rate at 63 percent for the first quarter - almost four times that of France’s 17 percent.
Italian Trade Commissioner Amedeo Scarpa said Italian wine reflects Chinese ambitions for a sophisticated lifestyle and explained, “When you think of Italy, you think about Valentino, Gucci, Armani, labels associated with fashion and high quality, and that's what Chinese consumers want.”
Last year, China imported 746 million liters of wine, up by almost 17 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, wine import value hit $2.8 billion, an 18 percent increase from 2016.
According to a report from International Wine & Spirit Research, China will become the world's second-largest wine market by 2020, surpassing the UK and France, and falling just behind the US.
However, China's foreign wine market remains small as 80 percent of Chinese wine consumers imbibe domestically made vino.
Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s growing demand for wine and the impact it is having on the country’s younger generation.
The fame of French wine attracts Chinese students to learn how to be wine tasters in Burgundy. (Photo: Global Times)
Chen Yanfen swirls a glass of Burgundy wine, noting its ruby red robe and fruity bouquet before taking her first sip.
Chen is one of a handful of Chinese students at the Dijon wine school learning winemaking secrets in the rolling hills of Central France.
Nearly one-third of the school's 135 students are Chinese, who pay $14,000 for the year-long wine education. The students also study marketing, with an emphasis on how to conduct business in China.
"For most Chinese consumers, French wine is the best, because it has a long history and it is very famous," said 30-year-old Chen.
Like many of her peers at the School of Wine and Spirits Business, she wants to sell French wines and other international flavors in China after she graduates.
While China has grown into a prolific wine purchaser, it has also increased efforts in making its own. The country is currently the sixth-largest wine producer in the world, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine.
For Chinese wine enthusiasts, certification in French oenology translates into considerable cachet back home once they land a job in the country's nascent wine industry.
"In China, wine is more like a luxury product. When I tell my friends I'm majoring in wine management, they say, 'Wow, that's cool!'," said 22-year old Liu Xinyang.
"I think it's a well-respected profession, and it's not hard to find a job with this diploma," Liu said.
Guests sample Italian wines at the 17th Western China International Fair in Chengdu in September. (Photo: China Daily)
Chinese investors are snapping up vineyards in France, Australia, and Chile. And Chinese tycoons own more than 100 properties in Southwestern France's Bordeaux region.
Billionaire Ma Yun, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, bought three vineyards in the region, including their 18th-century chateaux. Recently, a Chinese investment group purchased three vineyards in Chile.
"Wine from Bordeaux is a bestseller in China, especially, good-quality red wine in the lower price range,” said Yang Tingting, a lecturer at China’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
As a high-status product, image and branding are as important as taste, according to Wei Wei, who owns a wine shop in Beijing.
"Wine with delicate packaging is popular, as many Chinese consumers buy bottles as gifts for others,” she said.
Expensive reds from Bordeaux, such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, remain the most coveted in China, according to Wei. A single bottle can cost over $2,000 US dollars.
Burgundy wine is also in high demand and considered a “standard bearer" explained Jerome Gallo, school director at Dijon.
The wine institution has had to turn away Chinese applicants to maintain a balanced student body, and because it wants the Asian and European students to network with one another.
"What we want is not just for them to sell our wine, but to go home with a piece of this school, a piece of Burgundy and a piece of France in their hearts," Gallo said.
Steve Charters, a British-Australian lecturer at the wine school, said the Chinese students are fast learners and bring unique perspectives to the table.
"Because they don't have a longstanding culture of wine consumption, they're more open-minded," he said.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)