Australian Wine Exports To China Climb By 51 Per Cent As Exports Surge
China has become Australia's biggest wine export market.
The Asian nation has overtaken the United States as the biggest buyer of Australian wine, increasing its imports by 51 per cent and paying $474 million for the product in the last year.
Wine Australia attributed the result to the hard work put in by the industry, which it said was reflected in the jump in value of the Chinese market from just $27 million 10 years ago.
CEO Andreas Clark said the growth was exciting but exporters should be cautious.
"Now it's not always going to be at those high levels, clearly as the overall base increases the average rate of growth is going to drop off," he said.
"But everyone understands that and I think they've learnt the lesson that growth needs to be sustainable and needs to be the long term.
"And we need to be positioned correctly in the market at all price points."
Wine companies surprised by the 'phenomenal social and economic boom'
Nick Waterman is the managing director of Yalumba wines in South Australia's Barossa Valley.
He said his company exported to China, but was surprised by the extent of the growth.
"It's come even a little bit ahead of where we predicted it would come."
Yalumba had pitched their business for China to be the biggest export market for the end of 2017.
Mr Waterman said Yalumba had secured its export market by ensuring it relied on a distribution partner.
"About a year ago we signed an agreement with company called ASC...they have 800 people in their team and about 14 officers across China."
Neil Halliday, a 20-year veteran of marketing wine into China and manager of wine exports for Taylors wine, said he expected to retire before seeing growth figures of this calibre into China.
"So having grown into a market, it is certainly reasonable to expect that we should retain our position," he said.
"But 51 percent growth rates [are] probably not that sustainable year on year."
Wine bottlers seeing increase in business
North west Victorian bottling business Best Bottlers is bottling and labelling wine direct for retail in China.
Managing director Jim Kirkpatrick said he believed there should be more data on the below $10 a litre sales overseas.
He said his business hasn't seen the 51 per cent growth the whole export market has experienced.
"I'm not sure we are seeing that level of increase but we are certainly seeing an upward trend there's no question of that and it seems to be growing fairly regularly," he said.
"Our numbers, probably overall we are up 20 or 25 per cent and I guess it varies throughout the country.
"I would suggest that most Chinese customers start at 'entry level', which is well below $10 a litre.
"But then they expand in to that high level."
China a growing market for NSW winemaker
Chinese export accounts for a quarter of Gerry McCormick's wine production at Cottontail Wines, near Wagga Wagga in southern NSW.
He sends a shipping container full of wine to China each year and said his foothold in the market was thanks to the free trade agreement, and making the right connections.
"We've progressed to have export specialists who know the market. It's a specialised field because it requires understanding of Chinese custom," Mr McCormick said.
Mr McCormick she he had noticed a changing in the Chinese taste for wine, which has him hoping to double his exports in the next two years.
"They're becoming more sophisticated. When I was there in 2004, with my shiraz, they'd pour orange juice in it, or lemonade," he said.
"I was aghast. The position of wine in their diet was a little bit foreign to people like ourselves.
"But now there's a little bit more understanding, and as that expands, we hope so would the interest."