China now uses more land for growing grapes than France, the world’s largest wine exporter and home of the most expensive bottles, from the Burgundy region.
Chinese vine-planting increased by about 5 per cent last year, to an estimated 799,000 hectares (1.97 million acres), according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, known by its French acronym, OIV. France’s grape area slipped about 0.1 per cent to 792,000 hectares.
China has more than doubled its vineyard since 2000, as domestic wine consumption increased by about 45 per cent, with the Asian nation boasting close to 11 per cent of the global grape area last year, from 3.9 per cent at the start of the last decade, according to the OIV. The numbers include table grapes as well as those for wine and raisins.
“It’s the largest consumer of red wine,” Jean-Marie Aurand, director general of the OIV, said at a meeting with reporters in Paris. “A large part of the population has reached a standard of living that allows them access to wine.”
A large part of the Chinese vineyard isn’t in production yet, with vines taking about five years before they start bearing a full crop, Aurand said. The future use of the grapes is unclear, though China’s imports of planting material include red-wine grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, according to the director general.
In 2008, the European Union introduced a plan to withdraw about 175,000 hectares of vineyard from production to reduce oversupply, paying farmers a subsidy to uproot their grapes.
Spain remained the country with the largest vineyard area last year, unchanged at 1.02 million hectares, according to the OIV data. France exported 7.73 billion euro ($8.46 billion) of wine last year, down 1.3 per cent from 2013 and ahead of Italy, with 5.08 billion euro of exports.
China planted about 166,000 hectares of vines in the past three years, OIV data shows. In that period, the global vine area expanded by 57,000 hectares, while Europe’s vineyard shrank by about 104,000 hectares.
“China has had quite an exponential growth in the planted area,” Aurand said. “Vines adapt to somewhat difficult conditions. The vines are developing in areas that are very dry, very difficult, where there is no competition with other crops.”
Chinese wine consumption has increased about 45 per cent since 2000 to reach an estimated 15.8 million hectolitres (417 million gallons) last year, while intake declined in France, Italy and Spain, the biggest wine producers.
The US remained the largest wine consumer in 2014, with consumption rising about 2 per cent to 30.7 million hectolitres, followed by France, where purchases of wine slipped about 3 per cent to 27.9 million hectolitres, according to the OIV.
Bloomberg News, edited by ESM