China wine growers beat France into second place

Mon Apr 27, 2015 11:24am EDT
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By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS (Reuters) - China overtook France last year as the world's second largest wine grower by area under cultivation as it continued to plant vast fields of mostly imported grape vines to meet growing demand.

The world's second largest economy, which since 2013 consumes more red wine than any other country, has more than doubled the land devoted to vines since the start of the century to 799,000 hectares, the International Vine and Wine organization OIV said on Monday. It now accounts for 10.6 percent of the world's wine area against 10.5 percent for France and 13.5 percent for world No.1 grower, Spain.

"China wants to be self-sufficient in all sectors, this one included," OIV Director General Jean-Marie Aurand told reporters.

Vines are imported from all around the world and are mostly red grapes as Chinese virtually drink no white wine, he said.

They include many varieties such as Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay and are essentially grown in the Ningxia, Sichuan and Hebei provinces in dry areas where there is little competition with other crops, Aurand said.

Still, China's wine production is still far behind the world's major producers, France, Italy and Spain, which all surpassed 40 million hectolitres last year while China was barely at 11 million, ranking eighth in the world.

But since vines take between four and five years to produce and planting surged about two to three years ago, China's output could jump in just a few years, Aurand said.

At a global level, wine output fell 4 percent in 2014 to around 279 million hectolitres, OIV said.   Continued...

A security guard sits next to wine racks at Wine China Expo 2013 in Beijing September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon