The China Alcoholic Drinks Association (CADA) has petitioned the country’s Ministry of Commerce to open up dumping and subsidy investigations against imported wines from the European Union (EU), arguing that EU exporters have been behaving anti-competitively.

The move, announced late last month, follows a marked fall in sales of domestic wine in the country, with imported wines, primarily from Europe, posting healthy increases. Last year, China spent US$1.27bn on imported bottled wines, up 94% from 2010, with wines from France, Australia and Spain the most popular, according to China Customs.

Wang Zuming, general secretary of CADA’s wine division, said: “Almost all Chinese wine manufacturers are complaining that sales have been seriously affected by the imported wines, which mostly are from Europe.”

Last month, China’s leading wine maker, Changyu, reported that sales for the first half of 2012 dropped 2.5% year-on-year to CNY3.01bn (US$475.5m), its first reported loss in five years.

However, Lin Shaoguang, general manager at Ningbo-based Youchuan Imported Wine Trading, said that, aside from wider variety and more affordable prices, “the food safety issue” was a third major reason why Chinese consumers choose imported wine.

His comment alluded to recent scares - dismissed as groundless by Chinese wine makers and health authorities - over germicide levels in some Chinese wines.