Suggestion: Watch the 10 minutes video tutorial before reading this article
The wine market has grown much in China in the past years and will continue to do so in the coming years.
The middle class and many young people have started to appreciate foreign products, including wine, giving great opportunities to foreign exporters.
But wine belongs to the F&B category that is comparatively more regulated to clothes and home appliances, for example.
Before you start exporting to China, you must learn about the local standards that apply and make sure that you understand the exporting process beforehand.
In this article, I explain the necessary information you need to know when exporting wine to China.
China’s Wine Market
Even if China’s economic growth has slowed down a bit in the past years the Chinese people’s appetite for foreign products continues to grow.
Nowadays, wine is not only bought as expensive gifts or consumed by wealthy Chinese who have traveled much, or spent a couple of years abroad.
Young people have also shifted from drinking local liquors (such as baijiu or yellow wine) to appreciating foreign grape wines.
Worth mentioning is that the Chinese government has cracked down on bribes and politicians who spent vast amounts of money on expensive wines, this is another reason why the demand for wines has decreased recently.
We see a trend where cheaper and more ‘simple’ wine bottles with modern labels get increasingly popular.
Having that said, expensive wines will also be in high demand as more and more people join wine drinking courses, using wine drinking as a way of socializing and to expand their network among the ‘right’ people.
Online Sales of Wine in China
Chinese people love to buy things online and wine is not an exception.
Even if some people prefer to taste the wine before they buy it, many (like myself) buy a bottle on more simple grounds, for example: if the wine is sweet or dry, if it’s a Riesling or a chardonnay.
The labeling and design of the bottle are also of great importance, depending on what customers you target.
The country where the wine comes from can be of importance, but the taste and the price tag is generally more important. Wine doesn’t necessarily need to come from a specific village in France.
With these preferences, buying a bottle online can save you both money and time.
Where should I sell wine in China?
China is almost as big as Europe so the taste might vary among different regions.
Just making a comparison: a person in Germany might appreciate other types of wine, compared to a person in France. Nothing strange with that.
I recommend you to work with a local agent or distributor who better understands where your products are most suitable for exports.
Keep in mind that Chinese cuisine differs much. The central parts of China have much spicy food, whilst the Eastern region has more sweet food, which can influence the choice of a buyer.
Southern Chinese food (Guangdong region), the picture was taken in Hong Kong. Plain and sweet, maybe a bottle of sweeter white wine suits this food most?
Southwestern Chinese food (Yunnan province). This food is salty and spicier, you can even see a plate with grilled goat cheese that I ate. A bottle of red perhaps? It’s up to the Chinese people to decide.
Selling in Second Tier-Cities
While there’s a big demand in the big four (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou), you shouldn’t ignore second and third-tier cities.
There are over 170 cities in China that have more than 1 million people. Many of them are located in the central parts of China (including Chongqing and Wuhan).
The competition in second-tier cities is generally lower and you have great opportunities to target these areas for wine exports.
The bigger cities don’t necessarily need to be your only option.
What types of wines increase in demand in China?
Below are some key considerations to have in mind if you plan to sell wine in China:
- Fruity wines with less tannin get more appreciated
- Aromatic white wines have big growth potential
- Sparkling wines (especially sweeter ones) get increasingly popular
Import regulations for wine in China
You must study the regulations and local standards well in advance before you start exporting consumable products into China. Regulations are generally more strict for food, including wine, as these are consumed by humans.
First of all, you need to comply with national regulations on a ‘higher level’. Secondly, you need to follow GB (Guobiao standards) that often have derived from Western standards, making sure that your products are safe to use.
Keep in mind that standards translated into English, by government pages, for example, are not official standards and will be overruled by those in Chinese.
Also, regulations are frequently updated, make sure that you study these thoroughly to make sure you’re up to date.
Regulations Issued by AQSIQ (General National Standards)
Let’s have a look at the regulations issued by AQSIQ: and what purpose these fulfill:
AQSIQ Order 27 of 2012
Issued for labeling of pre-packaged food and wine
AQSIQ Announcement 55 (2012)
Issued to administrate the registration of foreign exporters, agents and importers
AQSIQ Announcement 59 (2011)
Used for label registration of products that are imported for the first time.
AQSIQ Decree 144 of the Administrative Measures on Import and Export Food Safety (2011)
Used for management of exports/imports, inspection, quarantine and safety supervision
AQSIQ Announcement No. 44 (2006) – Adjustment of Import / Export Food and Cosmetic Label Examination System
Remove separate and preliminary examinations of labels for imported and exported food, including wine. Instead, the approval will be done during CIQ’s inspection when the goods arrive at the port.
AQSIQ Decree 78 (2005) “Rules of Protection of Products of Geographical Indication”
Used to protect products that have a certain Geographical Indication (GI). For example, sparkling wines who don’t originate from the Champagne area in France shouldn’t be called Champagne.
AQSIQ Announcement No. 105 (2006)
Allowing longer time for methyl bromide fumigation and higher levels for wood packing that leaves or enters China.
AQSIQ Decree 84 Quarantine and Supervision Administrative Measures for the Importation of Wood Packing Materials (2005)
Have derived from IPPC guidelines and used to define regulations for imported wood packaging
Other regulations related to food and wine
a. Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China (2015)
b. National People’s Congress (2015)
c. President Order 22 (2015) for advertisement
d. SAIC: Measure for Administration of Special Signs of Geographical indication products
e. Trademark Law of China
GB (Guobiao) Standards for Wine Exports to China
Regulations change quickly, especially in emerging markets like China. Therefore, I suggest you work with professionals who can guide you through the complete exporting process.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common GB standards that apply for wine imported into China:
a. GB 10344-2005 General Standard for The Labeling of Prepackaged Alcoholic Beverage
b. GB 7718-2011 General Standard for The Labeling of Prepackaged foods
c. GB 15037-2006 Wines
d. GB 2758-2012 Fermented Alcoholic Beverages and Their Integrated Alcoholic Beverages
e. GB 2760-2014 Standard for Usage of Food Additives
f. GB 2763-2014 Maximum Levels of Pesticides in Foods
g. GB 2761-2011 Maximum Levels of Mycotoxins in Foods
h. GB 2762-2012 Maximum Levels of Pollutants in Foods
i. GB 12696-1990 Hygienic Specifications of Factories for Wine
j. GB/T 15038-2006 Analytical Methods of Wine and Fruit Wine
k. GB/T 23543-2009 Good Manufacturing Practice for Wine Enterprises
Keep in mind that all GB standards that are called GB/T are recommended, but not mandatory. The ‘T’ comes from the word Tuijian (推荐) which simply means “recommended”.
I recommend you check government pages (for example in the US, UK, Australia, or New Zealand) that offer much information about regulations when exporting to China.
Process When Exporting Wine to China
The process is similar compared to exports of meat products, I recommend you to read that article if you want to know more about the exporting procedure in detail.
Below I’ve included a summary of the steps you need to take before you can start exporting.
1. Signing the agreement with your Chinese importer
First of all, you need to find a Chinese importer who’s willing to import your products.
Keep in mind that the importer needs to make many registrations, for example registering at the customs and register themselves at AQSIQ.
2. Register Your Company with the AQSIQ
To be compliant to export wine, you need to register your company at AQSIQ.
After you’ll receive a registration number and your company information will be stored in AQSIQ’s database.
3. Registering Your Label
Before you ship your products, you need to register your label and send many documents to CIQ for review. After, you’ll receive a filing number of the products that are eligible for being imported into China.
The documents usually are:
a. A copy of the label in Chinese (paper version)
b. A digital version of the Chinese label (you can obtain it after you’ve registered at AQSIQ’s website)
c. A copy of the original label
d. Ingredients list (if not stated clearly on the label)
e. Certificates for all the award winners you’ve included on the label
What information do I need to include on the label?
When you’re ready to export your goods, you should preferably attach Chinese labels to the products directly.
This can be done before you ship the goods, or after the goods have arrived in China and are stored in a supervised warehouse. You can request your local importer or agent to label the products on your behalf.
The following information needs to be included on the label (refer to above-mentioned GB standards for labeling):
- Name of your product
- Type and vintage of producing (for example “red dry”)
- Alcohol content
- Country of origin (for distilled spirits and drinks with malt products)
- Net content
- Manufacturing date
- Address and contact of the Chinese distributor
- Storage instructions
- Filing date
- Shelf life
- Food additives added
The preferable choice is to mark the products before you ship them to China, otherwise they will be stored in a local warehouse until the products are marked.
Be sure to read the above mentioned GB standards in detail, or seek help from a third party before you export your products.
What documents do I need to prepare when exporting wine to China?
You need to prepare the following documents before you ship your products:
a. Commercial invoice
b. Customs value declaration
c. Freight insurance documents
d. Packing List
e. Insurance Certificate
f. Certificate of Origin (for distilled spirits and beverages with malt)
g. Health certificate (for distilled spirits and beverages with malt)
h. Certificate of Authenticity/Free Sale (for distilled spirits and beverages with malt)
i. Consolidated wine export certificate
You must receive a health certificate that is stamped and signed by an authority in the country of manufacturing.
4. Ship Your Goods
When you’ve marked your goods, you can prepare for shipment.
Unless you need to fill up an empty stock in China or need to replace products quickly, your preferred choice should be sea freight which takes around 6-8 weeks.
5. CIQ Inspection and Labeling
When your goods arrive in China, your importer or agent should normally declare the goods at the nearest CIQ office.
CIQ personnel is responsible for controlling goods that enter or leave China and to manage inspections of goods, to assure that these follow local standards.
If your goods are approved, you’ll receive a Certificate of Approval from CIQ and they will let your goods continue to customs clearance.
Do I need to get the products tested before I export them to China?
Yes, all food products need to be tested before these can be sold in China.
National authorities often require that your products are tested, even before these are exported.
For example: if you plan to export more than 100 liters of wine from the US or Australia, authorities require that you do product testing before exportation.
If you plan to export wine from New Zealand, you need to ensure that your products comply with the New Zealand Wine Act (2003).
During product testing of wine, labs analyze, for example:
- Levels of metals and minerals
It’s not rare that wines contain higher levels of metals. Test labs have found out that 23% of wine exported from Australia contains too high levels of Manganese. Often, it comes from natural reasons and the exporter might not even be aware of the problem.
Selling wine online in China
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, online sales of wine will increase rapidly in China.
Around 50% of all purchases in China were made online during the first half of 2017, which proves that this can be a winning concept over sales in physical stores.
People aren’t afraid of buying a bottle or more online from sites like Ele.me or Tmall, even if they haven’t tasted it before. A modern bottle with a nice description is more than enough for many.
The biggest e-Commerce platforms are JD (Jingdong) and Tmall at the moment, smaller sites are also catching up, like Yihaodian and Koala.
I recommend you to read our separate guide that explains how you can sell products on Tmall.
Import Taxes & Tariffs for Wine
You need to pay three different taxes when exporting wine, namely:
- VAT: 17%
- Custom duty: 14%
- Excise tax: 10%
I won’t go into details of how the complete tax bill is calculated, but you will land at a total tax level of around 40-50%.
Keep in mind that countries that have Free Trade Agreements with China, like New Zealand, won’t be required to pay customs duty within the near future.
Wine is in demand in China as especially younger people have started to like foreign wines, compared to local liquors.
As wine is consumed by humans, regulations are relatively strict and you need to meet a number of GB standards and national standards.
Labeling of the product is important and need to be verified by local authorities. If the label doesn’t follow the GB standards used for labeling, you can’t sell your products in China.
Previously, the most common way to sell wine was through local importers who simply sold the bottles in local stores and supermarkets. Nowadays, you have the opportunity to sell online as well, increasing sales even more.
Below I have included some commonly asked questions and my replies.
Is wine popular in China?
Yes, wine gets increasingly popular in China as they get an increased appetite for foreign food and alcohol products. Not only high-end wine is in demand, but fruity and low-cost wine. Worth mentioning is that China started to import wine from Central Asia during the Tang Dynasty.
What country imports the most wine?
The top importing countries of wine were as follows in 2019:
- United States: USD 6.5 billion (17.6% of total imported wine)
- United Kingdom: USD 4.4 billion (12%)
- Germany: USD 2.9 billion (7.8%)
- China: USD 2.4 billion (6.6%)
- Canada: USD 1.9 billion (5.3%)
- Japan: USD 1.8 billion (4.9%)
- Netherlands: USD 1.4 billion (3.7%)
- Switzerland: USD 1.2 billion (3.3%)
Does China produce wine?
Yes, China is a big producer of wine that is mainly used for domestic consumption. More than 800 million liters of grape wine were produced in 2019 and China has the second-biggest vineyard globally. The best vineyards ca be found in Ningxia, Shandong, Hebei, Jilin, Shanxi, and Shaanxi provinces. You can also find them around Beijing and Tianjin.