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China now Australia's biggest wine market

AAP logoAAP 20/10/2016 Alison Godfrey

China has become Australia's number one wine market after exports to the Chinese mainland jumped 51 per cent to $474 million in the past year.

A decade ago, wine exports to China were valued at just $27 million.

According to the latest export figures from industry body Wine Australia, overseas wine fans are not just drinking more, they are drinking a higher quality wine.

Bottled exports grew by 14 per cent to $1.8 billion in the year to September, 2016, and the average value increased by 9 per cent to $5.47 per litre, a 13 year high, according to the report, which was released on Thursday.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark attributes the strong growth in Asia to growing middle class and a sustained marketing campaign playing on Australia's image for premium, clean and green products.

"You see these strong growth rates and it doesn't just happen," Mr Clark said.

"We have worked hard to cultivate our presence and our image. It's things like being in the market, exporters establishing relationships with the distributors, setting up opportunities for exporters and educating the Chinese trade around wine and what Australian wine is."

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has also contributed to strong growth in the region.

Mr Clark says the Asian wine boom is only just getting started. He's hoping to entice the traditional lovers of red wine to try Australia's white wines.

Currently 93 per cent of wine sales to China are reds but white wines have seen a 33 per cent increase in the past year.

In Hong Kong, which Wine Australia counts separately to mainland China, sales growth was also strong, up seven per cent to $126 million.

Hong Kong drinkers spend more per bottle than any other nation with an average sale price of $13.53 per litre.

Mr Clark says Hong Kong is fast becoming a premium wine hub, much like London used to be.

"The wine aficionados who have big pockets to invest and spend come there. It's a real hub for the region, particularly for premium wines," he said.

Wine Australia will be showcasing Australian wines from the Barossa, Hunter Valley, Margaret River and Orange at the Hong Kong Wine and Dine festival from October 27 to October 30. It marks a change in tactics for the group, which has traditionally worked with exporters and suppliers. The event is expected to draw 150,000 people over the four days.

"It's an opportunity to have a strong Australian presence and highlight our regional credentials and fine wine credentials," Mr Clark said.

Sales growth to the US increased slightly, up four per cent to $448m, in year to September, whiles sales to the UK actually declined by three per cent to $361m.

Australia's top five wine export markets by value

*Mainland China - $474 million (up 51%)

*US - $448 million (up 4%)

*UK - $361 million (down 3%)

*Canada - $190 million (up 1%)

*Hong Kong - $126 million (up 7%)

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