[INTERVIEW] General picture of China’s wine and spirits market by Demei Li

Demei Li, is a professor for Wine Tasting, Enology and food engineering at Beijing University of Agriculture (BUA). He also work as a wine consultant and wine jounalist for Decanter. His goal is to create a dialogue with the consumer about wine.

VINEXPO: Can you make a self-Introduction?

Demei LI: ” I work at Beijing University of Agriculture (BUA). BUA mainly enrolls students from Beijing and Northern ChinaIt was founded 60 years ago, and currently counts 6,000-7,000 students. I teach students who major in Food Engineering classes of making and tasting wines and hold a public elective course of wine appreciation for all BUA students.

Meanwhile, I work in the wine industry association to provide wine consultancy and advise to companies. I also write articles for trade media like decanterchina.com.”

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VINEXPO: How do you see the development of the Chinese liquor market and what will be the consumption trends?

Demei LI: “The change of China’s wine market has shown a relatively obvious law in recent years. Generally speaking, the wine markets is more or less stable with no major fluctuation. Specifically speaking , different alcohlic beverages show different pictures…

Let’s take beer for example, despite its generally stable condition, the local beer brewing amount has declined slightly in these years but imported beer is having a significant sales growth! Although it only has a small market share in China, its increase rate is impressive. 

The other product that possesses a large market share is Chinese liquor. In regards to total consumption and sales volume, the Chinese Liquor market is relatively stable. But affected by government policies in recent 2-3 years the specific product types being consumed have changed, expensive and high-end consumption have contracted, while general and low-end consumption have increased.

Another special wine type in China is rice wine. The Chinese rice wine has a strong regional character, and is mainly consumed in southeast China, such as Jiangsu and Zhejiang Province, its consumption volume seems growing continuously in recent years.

Speaking of wine, its local production amount is basically stable. Compared with its own growing status five years ago, when there used to be a significant year on year growth rate. The local wine industry, although without sharp decline, is now in stagnation. Imported wine has kept increasing all this time. Nevertheless, this market has also changed in recent years especially that people used to talk about all kinds of fine and expensive wines but now tend to talk more about general wine products.

From a consumer’s perspective, their consumption habit has become more mature in recent years and has switched to products with better cost efficiency.

Thus for professionals working in the wine industry, an obvious trend is that consumers like products that can be easily understood and have a reasonable price. Besides, the wine region is another factor that has more impact on consumers than other elements. For example Bordeaux, as a wine region compared with all other wine regions around the world has left a deep impression with Chinese consumers and of course, price is an important factor as well. Comparatively, other elements such as variety, vintage, type, taste are secondary factors that don’t have as big an influence as the above two factors.

This is the general picture of China’s alcohol and wine market and my understanding.”

VINEXPO: Why do you attend Vinexpo? What kind of experience makes you interested in visiting Vinexpo again?

Demei LI: Vinexpo is one of the world’s most influential wine and spirit exhibition, especially for wines. Personally, I have some stories with Vinexpo, I’ll share two stories, that are my first and last visit to Vinexpo.

My first visit happened when I studied at Bordeaux as a professional it was necessary for me to attend it. Back then, few Asians could be found in Vinexpo, let alone Chinese. Accidentally, I came across another wine critic, Zhuang Buzhong from Singapore we got to know each other, and have well interacted till today.

I would say Vinexpo is a platform for all professionals to learn about the world and discover opportunities

And my last attendance at Vinexpo happened last year in Bordeaux, I went there with a Chinese visiting mission for an interaction program with CEEV. 

Talking about my impression of Vinexpo, it’s professionalism, comprehensiveness, and universality for global alcohol products and professionals attract to me most.

As a professional and consultant for importers and producers, this platform is a good opportunity for me to collect information and improve myself. Meanwhile, in just a few days, I can effectively meet with clients and friends which may otherwise take me time if there were no such exhibition. That is my impression and understanding of Vinexpo.