Known for their pursuit of the auspicious red wines, latest data seemingly shows that Chinese drinkers are embracing other wine styles, including Champagne, which used to be shunned for its razor sharp acidity and cold serving temperature.
Champagne exports to China last year have hit record levels since 2018 growing on the back of the French bubbles’ global export boom.
In 2021, €66.7 million worth of Champagne were exported to the Chinese market, a stunning increase of 69.9% over 2019 while export volume saw a 14.8% growth to 2.1 million bottles compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
This is the first time that export volume surpassed 2 million bottles since 2018. Wang Wei, the China representative of the Comité Champagne (CIVC), attributes the growth chiefly to the relatively uninterrupted on-trade scene in affluent cities in Shanghai, when being interviewed by Vino Joy News.
Established in 1941, CIVC represents the interest of Champagne growers and large houses.
“Despite the severe pandemic situation, curbs were not yet imposed in many regions including Shanghai last year, restaurants were still open, so the venues for drinking Champagne still existed,” Wang suggested.
Apart from on-premise consumption, Wang also noticed an increase in home consumption during the pandemic, “In locked down places, consumers who have been trained about Champagne can purchase Champagne online and drink at home, this portion is huge. Therefore Champagne saw a great growth in China in 2021.”
In addition to the easier access to Champagne, Wang noticed that Chinese consumers are becoming more open-minded through training and education. “Chinese consumers generally get headaches when they taste the acidity and cold Champagne, but after training, most consumers can accept Champagne, after all these are its distinctive characteristics,” she said.
Some of the top exported Champagne brands to the Chinese market are Moët Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and Duval Leroy. Moët is by far the biggest Champagne producer, while Pernod Ricard owns Maison Perrier-Jouët and Maison Mumm. By categories, vintage Champagne and rosé have seen better growth in China, she added.
Indeed, CIVC’s 2021 annual report showed that prestige cuvées account for 12.8% of the market and 7.6% for rosé Champagnes. Each saw 5.9% and 2.9% increase, respectively.
The Champagne growth in the local market might also be linked to Champagne’s evolved affinity to gastronomy rather than nightclub splurge. The appearance of Champagne has “seen a shift” from nightlife to gastronomy, or even Chinese restaurants, Edouard Duval, co-founder of East Meets West Fine Wines, told China Daily in an earlier interview.
The growing streak is expected to continue. According to IWSR data, Champagne sales volumes in China grew by 2.4% between 2014 and 2019, and the figure is forecast to grow a further 2.6% afterwards until 2024.
In 2021, Champagne enjoyed a record year. Its export saw an increase of 15.1% to a record-breaking 179.6 million bottles. In value terms, Champagne’s export reached €3.6 billion, up 3.4% from 2019 and 31.8% from 2020, according to the export report of the Comité Champagne (CIVC).