A third of Chinese wine drinkers questioned want 10.5% abv or lower - Prowein/Wine Intelligence

A third of Chinese wine drinkers questioned want 10.5% abv or lower - Prowein/Wine Intelligence

China's emerging middle class sees wine as a lighter alternative to hard spirits and would welcome lower-alcohol options, suggests new research commissioned by Prowein.

As wine consumption continues to grow strongly in China, the Prowein research suggests that the industry could be missing an important gap in the market. Almost one third of respondents to a survey of around 1,000 wine drinkers in China gave a preferred abv of between 8.5% and 10.5%.

Wine Intelligence conducted surveys in several countries on behalf of Prowein. Respondents to its survey in China were all regular drinkers of imported wine, aged between 18 and 49 years and living in middle or upper income brackets in tier one or two cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing and provincial capitals.

The survey identified women as a particular target for lower-alcohol wines. For a fifth of women questioned, the preferred abv was between 5% and 8%.

Wine Intelligence COO Richard Halstead said that the results for China are surprising, even though all of the group's consumer surveys for Prowein showed growing interest in the alcohol content of wine worldwide. 

In China, he cautioned that it is "still quite early days" in terms of consumer research, but he told just-drinks yesterday (17 January): "What we've been hearing is that wine is seen as a low alcohol alternative to local spirits, and this is especially important for women. For them, wine is a nicer tasting drink, as well."

A less surprising result from the survey was that a majority of Chinese respondents named French Cabernet Sauvignon as their favourite type of wine, reflecting Bordeaux's early success in the China. In the survey, Chile came second behind France as the most favoured country of origin, with domestic Chinese wine coming third. Italy came fourth and Australia fifth.

Per capita wine consumption in China is around one litre. This compares to around 14 litres in the US and 50 in France, according to drinks research group IWSR.  

Wine Intelligence plans to give a presentation on its consumer research at Prowein, which will take place in Dusseldorf, Germany, from 4 to 6 March inclusive. 

Organisers have added an extra exhibition hall to this year's show, following higher demand for spaces from an expected 3,700 exhibitors. In addition, Prowein 2012 has created a specific space for organic and "ecological" wines, in recognition of the categories' growing importance.