HONG KONG (AFP) - China will retain its crown as the world's fastest growing wine consumption market although the rate is tipped to slow significantly after years of explosive expansion, a new study showed Friday.
Chinese wine consumption soared by 142.1 per cent over the five years from 2007 to 2011, reaching a total of 159.25 million cases or 1.91 billion bottles, the leading wine and spirits trade fair organiser Vinexpo said.
Demand has surged in the world's second largest economy in recent years, driven by a rapid expansion in personal wealth as well as growing demand for foreign products.
Although the growth rate in wine consumption is tipped to slow to 39.6 per cent between 2012 and 2016, a total of 252 million cases of wine are expected to be drunk annually in the Chinese market, including Hong Kong, in 2016.
The 2012-2016 expansion rate stays ahead of the world's biggest wine consumption market, the United States (12.2 per cent) and France, which is predicted to see a three-percent contraction in 2016, according to Vinexpo.
Its chief executive Robert Beynat said the slowdown was a natural correction after the explosion in demand in China in recent years.
He expressed confidence that China will remain a growth story, pointing out that the country is expected to become the world's sixth largest wine producer in 2016, ahead of Chile and Australia.
"The more you produce, the more you drink," Beynat said at a news briefing in Hong Kong.
French wines still rule the Chinese market, accounting for around 48 percent of imports in terms of volume.
The new findings were released ahead of the annual Vinexpo fair this year, to be held in Bordeaux, France, in June.