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Demand for Australian wine soars as nation's tastes change

By Tania Lee (China Daily)

13:42, December 12, 2011

BEIJING - Turning 30 is cause for a big party, so when Chang Jie celebrated his 30th birthday at a karaoke bar in Beijing recently, cases of 2009 Chateau Lafite were in high demand.

"Bordeaux is best," he said without offering any justification. Then without any swirling, sniffing or sipping he sculled the glass of wine in his hand.

Many Chinese mainlanders consider Chateau Lafite to be the best French wine.

"It stands head and shoulders above anything else in terms of its brand recognition," said Campbell Thompson, an Australian and co-owner of the wine importing and distribution company The Wine Republic.

"The French are leaders in the gift-giving and corporate dining market. Australian wine just simply doesn't have the same cachet among these consumers," he added.

Despite not being able to match France's leading 50 percent market share in China, there is some good news for Australian wine producers. Overall demand for its wine is experiencing strong growth.

There are currently more than 1,000 Australian wine brands available in China and imports of Australian wine were up 29 percent in the first nine months of 2011 compared with the same period last year. Third-quarter results show Chinese mainlanders bought 2.54 million cases of Australian wine. Each case contains 12 regular bottles.

China is also Australia's fastest growing market and is the fourth largest export market by value, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It boasts the largest sales of high-priced wines - more than 4.2 million bottles valued at 600 yuan a bottle and above between September 2010 and September 2011, according to Wine Australia, the Australian government's industry marketing body.

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