Commentary: Who will drink the Australian wine previously bought by 52 million Chinese consumers?

There’s also hope that the Indian market may grow, now that a new trade agreement is in place, cutting tariffs on premium Australian wine by half to 75 per cent. Excitement is tempered by the fact that only around 3 million of its 1.38 billion inhabitants regularly drink wine.

Despite its small size, Singapore is growing to become a more important market than ever. Importing A$166 million in Australian wines in 2021 – nearly double that of 2020 – Singapore spends as much on Australian wine as the next four biggest Asian markets (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan) combined. In fact, Singapore is now the fifth-largest export market for Aussie wines worldwide.

In the absence of the Chinese customer, a Singapore drinker might have hoped for more competitive prices. Unfortunately, that has not transpired given increased logistics costs and delays in shipping resulting from the global freight crisis and rising fuel prices, among other factors.

What we are seeing is somewhat better access to outstanding Australian wines that may otherwise have found their way to China. Singapore-based drinkers can “look forward to more choice from better, more elevated, more niche Australia producers,” Matthew Lonergan, co-founder of Singapore fine wine distributor Pivene, told me.

“Though always a popular category in Singapore, Australian wine is often viewed as a relatively mainstream choice, built around familiar brands from dominant, multinational distributors who eagerly play on price and mass distribution in both the trade and retail environments,” Lonergan said.

“The real opportunity now is for a recalibration of Australian wine, insofar as its perception and positioning go.”

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