China’s imported wine market is evolving thanks to burgeoning numbers of younger, less involved wine drinkers who buy wine at entry-level prices
The “traditionalist” wine consumers in China, who purchase top-end Bordeaux and often use it as a face-enhancing business gift, are being overtaken, in numerical terms at least, by a new generation of wine drinkers who are drinking more frequently and seeking value in the category, according to the new Wine Intelligence China Portraits 2015 Report.

China Portraits 2015 image

The trend has seen the emergence of a brand new category of wine consumers in China, which was not recognisable in the previous study conducted in 2012. This new segment, known as ‘Developing Drinkers’, consists of graduates working in high earning professions in their late 20s and early 30s, who have picked up the wine habit mainly through business dinners, but who are now branching out on their own and drinking wine as part of their social life outside work.
In the 2015 study, Wine Intelligence categorises six recognisable consumer archetypes, or Portraits, among China’s 38 million imported wine drinkers. As well as the newly-classified Developing Drinkers, there are ‘Adventurous Connoisseurs’, ‘Prestige-seeking Traditionalists’, ‘Social Newbies’, ‘Health Sippers’, and ‘Frugal Occasionals’. The “Portrait” categorisation doesn’t just apply to basic information like age, gender and income brackets.
It also takes account of the way Chinese consumers interact with wine. It involves an understanding of the reasons why they drink wine, the way they make buying decisions and the other kinds of drinks in their repertoire.
Since the previous China Portraits study in 2012, Wine Intelligence has noticed a shift of power in the market: the proportions of the high-engagement groups ‘Adventurous Connoisseurs’ and ‘Prestige-seeking Traditionalists’ are smaller than they were three years ago, while the shares of low-engagement segments ‘Health Sippers’ and ‘Frugal Occasionals’ have been on the rise, and the aforementioned ‘Developing Drinkers’ segment has emerged to account for 19% of the imported wine drinking population.
“Over the past three years the Chinese market for imported wine has begun a fundamental transformation. It is moving from the era where prestige wine was only bought as a face-enhancing gift towards a world where consumers care more about how it tastes – because they will be drinking it themselves – and how much it costs, because they are most likely paying for it themselves as well.” (Richard Halstead, Wine Intelligence)
Please feel free to get in touch with me if you would like to know more about China’s wine market and its consumers, or get the latest findings from the China Portraits 2015 Report.
Author: Chuan Zhou
Email: chuan@wineintelligence.com