As the Chinese population expands and the nation grows stronger, their intake of alcoholic beverages is also increasing. Whilst this is not necessarily a surprise, as alcohol is seen more as a luxury good than anything, the rate at which it is increasing and the total amount that the Chinese are drinking is big. There has also been a notable change in their taste in liquor as the wealth of the nation, and its people, goes up.

Whilst it would be expected that local brews and rice wines are of the greatest popularity, it appears that this type of alcohol is rapidly coming into the picture. So much so that red wine is now considered to be the preferred drink of the majority of the Chinese population. However, due to the drinking culture in China, the type of alcohol that is drunk is less important than the people that it is drunk with.

Firstly, it is important to understand what is drunk when and why, before going into the rapid rise of Chinese alcohol consumption with specific reference to wine in Shanghai.

Business Dinners

At such an event, Baijiu, also known as sorghum wine, is the drink of choice. This alcoholic beverage is extremely strong and leaves a hard burning sensation on the throat. Some of these Baijiu’s can come as strong as 60% alcohol which is extreme, especially when compared to a regular spirit such as vodka that sits around 40%.

Dinner with Family and Friends

Both red and beer are drunk at dinner tables around the country and are increasingly enjoyed. There is a big popularity around French wines however, there are many businesses that now deliver wine to Shanghai from foreign countries because it goes straight to people’s doors.

Beer is commonly enjoyed and there are a number of local breweries throughout China. Much of the beer that is being drunk by the Chinese is crisp and refreshing in order to compliment the Baijiu and reduce the burning sensation as a result.


In terms of popularity, red has seen a big increase in sales and is now the preferred sitting at 39% of residents. This compares well to the other types of alcohol with Chinese rice liquor preferred by 36% of people and whisky coming in at 29%. White didn’t poll well at all only receiving 2% of the vote.

The increase in the popularity of wine in general and particularly red can be seen in the total sales of wine in 2011 reaching $8.8billion AUD. Wine imports also increased dramatically during this time, expanding by 50%. This means that it is now even easier to access wine in Shanghai and other cities throughout China. So if you are looking to buy wine Shanghai, there has never been a better time.

Notably, the consumption of spirits has also increased at a compounding annual rate of 20% between 2007 and 2011. Not only are imports increasing, but the production of local liquor is also growing at a rapid rate.

In 2010 the Chinese liquor industry reached a total output of 8.91 million tons whilst revenue reached $47.6 billion AUD. These numbers equate to a year on year growth rate of 26% and 31% respectively.

The increase in consumption is made clear when comparing the consumption of the 5 major alcoholic beverages of 2007 and 2011. In 2007, the combined consumption of white, red, beer and imported spirits was at 46.52 billion litres. In 2011, that number reached 62.72 billion litres. That is approximately a 35% increase in consumption over just 4 years.

Whilst it is made clear that the rising middle class is a key driver behind the increased consumption, it may also be the globalisation of the world and decreased transport costs. Businesses are now more and more online and people are able to order a product with the click of a button.

Now that the Chinese likely have better access to better tasting flavours, their consumption has gone up. Businesses are now able to have orders delivered in a day, making overseas purchases more viable and less of an inconvenience.

It is evident to see that the consumption of red, and liquor in general, in China is increasing at a significant rate. The popularity of red has come about as a result of the increased wealth in the nation and the growing middle class.

Whilst beer and rice liquors as well as some spirits will always remain a part of the Chinese culture, because of the rapid increase in importance of wine to Shanghai, it is becoming increasingly accessible.


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