Throughout the history of the Italian wine industry, the output of suppliers has continued to grow as demand increased. From the earliest days, when Italian wine was predominantly sold in its region of origin and occasionally transported to other areas in Italy if it developed a reputation, the market grew to the point where the industry began to factor into the economy of Italy as a nation and wines were imported to other European countries.
Over time, these imports have expanded to include nations all across the globe. For example, the United States is becoming an increasingly large customer for the industry, despite the fact that the country has its own wine industry as well.
Furthermore, the continued development of the internet has made Italian wine more accessible than ever before. While this has meant that the areas that traditionally import wine are now able to access vintages that may not have been accessible just a few short decades ago, it also means that new markets are opening up all of the time too.
For example, the Asian market was not traditionally a big customer for the Italian wine industry until a couple of decades ago. However, demand in the region has rocketed in recent years due to a number of different factors.
The Chinese Market
As of last year, China is now the biggest consumer of Italian wine in the world. Not only are they the largest importer, but the amount of wine that is sent to the country exceeds even that which is sold on a domestic level. In short, China has become one of the most important markets in the wine industry and the shift has happened for a number of reasons.
For one, the increasing of the middle class in the country has meant that more people than ever are able to afford to import bottles of Italian wine. Couple that with the fact that such wine is now more accessible than ever, often at lower prices than ever before, thanks to the web and you have an ideal formula for the continued growth that we have seen in the market. In a country of more than a billion people, it is not surprising that once the market opened up it would begin to expand at a truly enormous rate.
Oddly enough, there may also be another reason for the continued popularity of Italian red wine in particular. Red is seen as a lucky colour in China and is commonly associated with good fortune and prosperity. As such, many customers are simply happy to purchase a bottle of red wine, often with little regard to its quality. As the market continues to grow in influence, this is likely to change somewhat. While it is likely that red wine will remain as popular as it has become, it is possible that the Chinese market will begin to show a more discerning taste in regards to what they buy, which is enormous motivation for existing producers to aim towards creating the best vintages possible.
Conversely, white wine sales in the country may never reach the same level because white is seen as a colour most commonly associated with death. While this cultural superstition may be affecting the sales of white wine in the country at the moment, there is a possibility that they could begin to climb as the market develops more of a taste and increasing curiosity about the industry.
However, in the Chinese market at least, it is important to remember that cultural issues affect the decisions made when it comes to purchasing wine, perhaps more so than quality at this moment in time.
It’s not just shopping that has become easier for people to do in recent years. A number of Asian countries that may have been difficult to travel to for average people are now seeing more visitors than ever before. Not only does this mean that more influences are entering countries that were previously fairly isolated in terms of their culture, but there is now a need to provide goods and services to these international customers as well.
This is particularly the case for areas that see a large number of European and American visitors. Dubai, for example, has become one of the most affluent areas in the world in recent years and has seen an increasing number of people from such countries taking vacations there. As such, that market, which has traditionally not been known for purchasing large quantities of wine, is becoming an increasingly large player that Italian winemakers can market their products to. This is especially the case for more prestigious suppliers, as the establishments that serve wine will look to offer only the best available at all times. However, it does mean that the door is open for less established producers to also grab a slice of the pie.
The Bottom Line
The Asian market has continued to grow in influence and purchasing power over the last couple of decades, to the point where it is not as large as any other market in the world. The interesting thing for Italian winemakers is that said market is still finding its feet and, as it develops, may increase demand beyond the levels that they are now. Furthermore, as the market continues to grow, so too may the desire for wines that specifically suit Asian sensibilities.
It is an opportunity that the industry would be ill-served to ignore and it has been sure to grasp it with both hands. Today, Italian winemakers have more opportunities open to them than ever before in terms of the markets their products can appeal to. What is important is that complacency doesn’t creep in and the industry continues to innovate and produce great wines in the same way that it always has. In doing so, a fresh supply of great wines will always be available and the industry can continue to grow, safe on a foundation of storied history while also willing to adapt to new opportunities when they arise.