Chinese wine imports increased by nearly 50 per cent last year, according to figures released by the Beijing customs authorities, with a value amounting to almost €26 million, an increase which is being attributed to lower import tariffs and increasingly westernised consumer tastes.
Chinese import tariffs one wines are now 14 per cent, lower than the 65 per cent that used to be applied prior to the country's accession to the World Trade Organisation.
The import duties that previously applied, plus consumption and value added tax used to amount to around 150 per cent, making imported wines prohibitively expensive for most Chinese consumers.
The reduction of the tariff has opened the floodgates to a deluge of foreign wine producers, resulting in increased competition, which in turn has triggered a price war among domestic wine producers.
The majority of wines imported by China are from Chile, with France, Australia, the US, Argentina, Italy and Spain following in that order.
China's Commerce Minister Bo Xilai is currently visiting New Zealand on his way to Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation talks in Chile and any discussions or agreements could benefit New Zealand's wine producers.
Wine is gaining popularity among China's increasingly affluent consumers, particularly red wine, although many people drink it on-the-rocks or served with mixers such as cola.