In a stunning upset to French Champagne, the Chinese market has witnessed a remarkable surge in the consumption of Italian sparkling wine. Recent data from the China Association for Imports and Exports of Wine and Spirits (CAWS) reveals that one out of every two bottles of sparkling wine opened in the country originates from Italy, signaling a seismic shift in Chinese consumers’ preferences.
Despite a slight decline of 21.91% in import volume and 18.22% in import value for Italian sparkling wine in 2022 compared to the previous year, the total import volume of Italian bubbles exceeded a staggering 4.43 million liters. This accounted for a significant 54% of the total annual imports, which stood at 8.21 million liters, underscoring the growing allure of Italian fizz in the discerning Chinese market.
The statistics emphasize the increasing popularity of Italian sparkling wines, from the light and aromatic Moscato d’Asti to the ever-popular Prosecco, among younger Chinese drinkers.
One of the key factors driving the preference for Italian sparkling wine is its pocket-friendly price. Its approachable style and affordable price points compared with prestigious Champagne made them an attractive choice in uncertain economic times.
With an average import price of just US$3.75 per liter, Italian bubbles present a compelling option for budget-conscious wine drinkers during the pandemic. In stark contrast, high-end French sparkling wines, dominated by Champagne, demand an average price of US$38.52 per liter, making them less accessible to price-sensitive consumers.
Additionally, another key element driving Italian sparkling wine growth lies in the taste profile of these bubbles. Moscato d’Asti and Prosecco, two popular Italian sparkling wine varieties, boast a slightly sweeter flavor profile compared to their dry Champagne counterparts. This subtle difference in sweetness has played a significant role in capturing the palates of Chinese drinkers, who overwhelemingly prefer semi-sweet and sweet wines.
However, while Italian sparkling wines have gained considerable ground in terms of volume, French sparkling wines still dominate in import value, accounting for a substantial 71.94% compared to Italy’s 19.12%. This suggests that while Italian bubbles are increasingly popular, the allure and prestige associated with French Champagne continue to hold sway over higher-end segments of the Chinese market.
As China’s wine culture continues to flourish and more consumers embrace the joys of wine, the growth of Italian sparkling wine in the Chinese market is poised to continue its upward trajectory, offering an exciting opportunity for producers and exporters alike.