Asian market (pic: iStock)
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Who’s driving Asia’s wine growth in 2021?

Asia's wine market remains resilient last year, but which market is driving its growth? We profiled and compared four key markets to find out.

The wine market in Asia last year continued to endure declining on-trade sales, delayed global shipments and cancellations of wine trade fairs under the COVID-19 pandemic, but some markets have demonstrated resilience with staggering growth figures. 

Here we profiled and compared four key markets – Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan and South Korea to find out which market was fueling wine growth in Asia in 2021.

Four key Asian wine markets' wine imports in 2021 (infographics produced by Vino Joy News)
Four key Asian wine markets’ wine imports in 2021 (infographics produced by Vino Joy News)

South Korea

South Korea has achieved the fastest growth rate in import value among the four key Asian markets. The wine market’s remarkable rise has led research company Wine Intelligence to praise it that it is “closing in on the US as the most attractive global wine market” after jumping from 8th place to 2nd place in 2020.

In 2021, the country imported US$560 million worth of wines by value, representing a drastic 70% increase compared to 2020, the data from the Korea Customs Service shows.

This is the first time that South Korea’s wine import has surpassed the US$500 million milestone, according to Korean news agency Yonhap.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has  a relatively smaller population size of around 51.84 million in 2020 compared to Japan and China, but the country is catching up quickly by uncorking more bottles than ever.

Wines sold in South Korea (pic: Twitter)
Wines sold in South Korea (pic: Twitter)

The top exporter to South Korea is France, which exported US$162.6 million worth of wines, a stunning increase of 94% compared to 2020. 

The US came in second, with US$90.67 million worth of wine exports with 62% growth, followed by Italy’s US$90.46 million, representing 86% growth year on year.

One of the driving forces behind Korea’s wine growth was the country’s strong home consumption amid the pandemic. Industry sources said more consumers opted to drink by themselves at home during the pandemic than going out to bars, which more than made up for on-trade losses. 

Still wine in South Korea has been on an upward trajectory for several years, driven by younger adult consumers. Still wine volume consumption in South Korea has risen by almost a quarter in 2020, capping a period of growth since 2016, according to IWSR data.

Another key factor was the government’s relaxation of the laws regarding the purchase of alcohol online.Starting from April 2020, consumers can freely order alcoholic drinks from websites or mobile apps before picking them up at convenience stores or restaurants. 

Previously, alcohol sales were prohibited online to align with nationwide health campaigns and prevent tax evasion by online liquor stores.

After the loosened restrictions in mid-2020, one in five wine drinkers in South Korea said they have purchased wines from online in the first half year of 2021, Wine Intelligence reported. 

However, the policy relaxation only applies to traditional Korean liquors currently in order to protect the country’s local industries and minimise underage alcohol purchases. Given that the pandemic has greatly hampered wine sales in retail stores, small businesses and liquor importers in South Korea are calling for wider alleviation in hope for sustaining their profits.

Scroll through the pages below to read more on Japan, Hong Kong and China.

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