A recent gathering of wine industry folk descended on Adelaide for the 14th Annual Wine Industry Technical Conference (AWITC) which runs for four days of presentations.

Around that there are really interesting workshops, trade displays and a huge series of posters depicting many aspects of the industry; not necessarily all Australian with some good Kiwi and South African contributions.

One series of presentations honed in on wine consumers and struck strong chords with me because wine marketing sometimes tends to take the “one size fits all approach” and often such methods fail with an awful loss of money.

Lulie Halstead from the UK-based Wine Intelligence group clearly gave me the picture of how drinkers sat worldwide. And what a revelation. Wine Intelligance survey drinkers’ habits in the top fifty countries for wine drinking, basing this on four groups: traditionally established (France) and most of these countries drink at least 50 litres/capita per year, established (Australia), emerging (Singapore) and new emerging (China).

Lulie called a regular wine drinker a person who drank wine once a month. Let’s investigate US, UK, Canadian, Australian and Chinese drinking statistics (the latter consuming less than a litre per capita)!

Sixty-six percent of Australian adults (25 l/capita), sixty-one per cent of Canadians (13 l/capita), fifty-nine percent of Brits (25 l/capita, a third drink beer) and thirty-three percent of Americans (11 l/capita, a third drink beer and a third don’t drink alcohol) drink wine.

The average Australian drinker is aged 47, with fifty-seven percent over 40 years. The sexes are evenly split. In the USA the average drinker is aged 49, with sixty percent over 45 years. But sixty percent of US drinkers are female.

In China sixty-three percent of males and thirty-seven percent of females drink wine, but expect that to change. Importantly the table wine drinking age group is 25-35 years.

In terms of outright drinker numbers, USA has seventy-four million, then comes Canada, UK and Australia in descending order.

In surveying the USA market for Australian wine we rank fifth in importance with eighteen percent of drinkers experiencing Aussie wine whilst the Kiwi’s rank tenth and twelve percent of American palates have tried a sauvignon or pinot.

What’s even more interesting is the motivation for US consumers to buy wine. Their physical need is to be refreshed, quench a thirst or suffer a healthy experience, whereas most female Chinese see a glass of wine has a health and beauty tonic (actually consumed before a sleep event).

If the motivation is a self-expression; “about me”, a US drinker sees a good bottle as a personal reward, a form of relaxation, gaining knowledge or for leisure time. The Chinese drinker sees it as a good luck token, a personal experience, gaining knowledge or simply the important activity of consuming a western product.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world the Institute of Masters of Wine was holding its Symposium in Bordeaux entitled “Forging Links”.

Judy Leissner of Grace Vineyards is Hong Kong based but is building her brand in China from grapes grown in X’ian province at her isolated winery.

Jancis Robinson reports on www.jancisrobinson.com from the symposium reminding us that the population of China is over 1.3 billion, with one city, ChongQing, being home to 32.3 million inhabitants, many of whom never leave their own district.

So many of the new drinkers who were born during the one-child policy era are now coming on to the labour market or entering the Chinese middle class. These children grew up with one set of parents and two sets of grandparents completely focused on them and their desires.

Judy says, ‘You can’t criticise Chinese people born in the 1990s.’ She was not the first person to note that there is little sex discrimination in China, but that because drinking carries negative connotations, female wine sales people are generally thought to be easy conquests.”

This coming week Pernod China will welcome six hundred of its sales staff to its Orlando Wines and Jacob’s Creek headquarters at Rowland Flat. I’d be interested to know what the gender break is in this sales force.

According to Stacier Wei at info@wine-info.com , Orlando Wines MD, Stephen Couche “says China is emerging as a growing market for Australian wine, and Jacob’s Creek in particular. China has an increasingly affluent middle class, within which there is a desire for luxury consumer goods and a relaxed, family-based lifestyle.” This ties in with the research at Wine Intelligence.

Pernod China believe there are as many as 200 million people for whom bottled wine is seen as an element of this desirable lifestyle –and Australia, along with France, is seen as a preferred supplier of this wine.

According to Judy Leissner ‘typical consumers are men aged 40-60 who drink frequently but don’t really enjoy it. They drink wine because, doing a business deal, typically in a private room in a restaurant with shark-fin soup to demonstrate how well the guests are treated, they mustn’t lose face. Wine is served so that the guests know immediately how expensive the wine is.’

Looks like the demographic on Chinese drinkers, a very important new Australian customer is rapidly changing.

The final motivation for buying wine is an external one, for a US drinker it is status related, or a cause for celebration or due to a recommendation, whereas a Chinese drinker sees it as sophistication, social status, respect if it’s a business colleague or even more it’s for financial status.

And the moral for the wine industry is: educate the millennial demographic, to grow the Australian wine industry needs more younger consumers. So wines branded “Some Young Punks” would sound attractive to such a group.

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