Chinese wine economy
A waiter pours a selected Ningxia wine into a glass for a judge at a tasting event in BeijingReuters

China is now the second-largest wine-growing area in the world after Spain, with France in third place, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (IOVW).

Emerging as a major player in viniculture, China now accounts for 11% of the territory given over to vineyards last year, up from 4% in 2000.

China is also the largest red wine market in the world after consuming 155 million nine-litre cases in 2013, according to a Drinks Business report.

According to an IWSR survey commissioned by Vinexpo, Chinese red wine consumption has leapt by 136% since 2008.

The report, which incorporates Hong Kong into its Chinese figures, highlighted a number of reasons behind this market's thirst for red wine in particular. These include its perceived health benefits, especially in comparison to rice-based spirits, as well as the positive associations of red in Chinese culture as a whole, where the colour is associated with wealth, power and good luck.

While China's buoyant economy, large population and growing appreciation for red wine has made it a major export target for many wineries, the survey found that over 80% of wine consumed in the country is produced domestically.

"Apart from its virtues with regard to health, which have been widely lauded as an alternative to the impact of excessive consumption of rice-based spirits, the popularity of red wine is largely due to the symbolic importance of its color," Bordeaux-based exhibition company Vinexpo explained in a new study.

"Red is a very positive hue in Chinese culture, associated with wealth, power and good luck. In business circles, these three values are fundamental. Red wine is therefore an obvious choice for business hospitality, where partners can drink to each others' health."

Despite China's position as the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, imported wines are expanding their market share. Between 2007 and 2013 wine imports multiplied seven times to represent 18.8% of all wine consumed in China today.

The figures released on Monday (27 April) for 2014 showed China had 799,000 hectares (1.97 million acres) of land devoted to wine growing, compared with 1.02 million hectares for Spain.

France is still the biggest producer of wine, producing 46.7 million hectolitres (mhl), while the United States is the biggest consumer at 30.7mhl - 13% of all global wine produced last year - followed by France and Italy.

The biggest importers of wine were Germany, the UK and the US with total global trade valued at €26bn, says the IOVW.

Global wine consumption overall fell in 2014 by 2.4mhl to 240mhl.