Market insights for Asia

This year’s Sopexa Wine Trade Monitor offers useful predictions about Asian markets. For publication in the week of 19 December 2016.

The Wine Trade Monitor that Sopexa published last month has produced some helpful and fascinating insights into the still wine markets in China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, Canada, Russia.

About 1,100 importers, wholesalers and retailers offered their two-year forecasts about the wine world in this year’s report. It should be noted that results have been presented as an average of all seven countries, giving each country equal weight within the sample.

Sopexa is a global communications agency that focuses on the wine and food industries. Its web site says it has a network of 26 “multicultural teams” working with clients in 61 countries.

One of the report’s key findings was probably the most obvious: Retailers around the world must stock French wines. Fully 94 per cent of respondents said France remained the most popular country in terms of having the most desirable wines for a portfolio, followed by Italy at 80 per cent and Spain with 76 per cent.

France was also significantly ahead of competitors in terms of global image, particularly in Asia. Seven in 10 respondents considered French wines to be the most important. French wines came top in categories such as for “special occasions” and also for “supplier relations”. This latter category was considered particularly important in Asian markets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Spain and Chile came first in the categories of “attractively priced” and “wines for every day”, followed by Australia (which stood out as the most successful in the “innovation” category). Of the New World nations, Chile was the most recognised as having the potential to disrupt Old World countries, along with Australia and the United States.

Another key finding was the notion that the taste for European wines was evolving among Asian countries. In China, for example, Spanish wines were now on an equal footing with their Australian counterparts. Australia had lost market share in China since 2011 but Australian wines appear to be on the way back in that country.

Half of all respondents in South Korea, Russia and Canada are anticipating a boost in sales of Spanish wines by 2018, an opinion shared by suppliers, independent retailers and multiple grocers. Other regions expected to experience rising sales included Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux and Sicily.

In five of the seven markets studied Spanish wines were expected to sell more over the next two years, ahead of Italian or French wines. In the report François Collache, commercial director of drinks for Sopexa, said Spanish wines were attractive because they were considered “easy drinking”. They offered “strong brands which drive their quality image,” Collache said.

Christian Barré, president of the Spanish Wine Federation, is quoted in the report as saying many consumers saw Spanish wine as great value for money – a real selling point in times of economic crisis. “The entire Spanish wine sector, particularly certain wine regions such as Rioja, has become very aware of the need to develop exports. It has therefore grouped together to promote the growth of its wines and brands internationally.”

The success of Spanish wines has been driven by Rioja, which emerged as the second most sought-after European wine region after France’s Languedoc. For the majority of the wine trade surveyed, Rioja was featured as one of the top five high-potential regions in terms of sales increases.

In South Korea, where Chile is still the major wine supplier, Spain was seen as a strong contender. Sukyoung Chung, Sopexa’s managing director for that country, believes this success was because of a combination of several factors: “Excellent value for money, a savoury taste appreciated by Koreans that can be related to the Japanese word umami, the warm, welcoming image of Spain and an increasingly popular style of cuisine. Spanish wines also have a certain novelty factor compared with French, Italian and Chilean wines already available on the market,” the report quotes her as saying.

In Japan, big growth is expected in relation to organic and natural wines. About two in five industry professionals there anticipate an increase in sales of organic, biodynamic and natural wines over the next two years. This is not the case in China, with only 10 per cent of the industry predicting growth in organic wines and 3 per cent in natural wines.

The report quotes Carl Robinson, CEO of Tokyo importer Jeroboam, as saying that demand for natural wines in Japan was extremely high. Many top restaurants in Tokyo served them. “After the earthquake and Fukushima, people were even more careful about what they ate and drank. Honesty in labelling has become very important to the Japanese who are also more demanding than ever when it comes to quality.”

This year’s Wine Trade Monitor noted that, in terms of anticipated sales, the three most popular grapes have not changed. “Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay remain the grape varieties set to see the greatest boost in sales.”

The debate about closures continues. Though screwcap wines remain popular the survey also suggests that use of cork will remain constant, which appears to be a contradiction.

Three in five of the professionals surveyed believed that demand for screwcap closures would rise. “This increase is primarily expected in the Japanese, Canadian and American markets (94 per cent, 77 per cent and 67 per cent of professionals respectively).

Yet sales of bottles with cork closures would probably remain stable in almost all seven markets surveyed, according to 64 per cent of respondents. Screwcaps are certainly gaining ground in Japan, probably because of the rise in imports from Chile where screwcaps have become more accepted.

A copy of the report can be found at http://www.sopexa.com/uploads/566fc-sopexa_wine-trade-monitor_2016_en.pdf

Words: 976

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