There’s an awful lot to like about the small island nation of Taiwan. Positioned 180 km east of China, with a population of approximately 23 million, Taiwan is an important and growing market for wine.
Taiwan is among the top five wine markets in Asia, with Euromonitor expecting Taiwan’s wine consumption to increase steadily in the coming years, surpassing 25 million litres in 2021.
Taiwan’s wine market has developed considerably since the 1990s when drinking wine was a mark of status for wealthy businessmen. Modern-day wine aficionados are progressively seeking out varieties that offer more than just old-world standing and a hefty price tag.
Wine drinking in Taiwan
The current wine market in Taiwan is being propelled forward by sharp young, female consumers, and wine drinking in Taiwan has risen solidly in the past seven years by 8.5 %.
Taiwanese wine drinkers are accustomed to drinking wine around a meal. Drinking in restaurants is popular and the most commonly accepted way to drink wine in Taiwan. Taiwanese would prefer a night out in a restaurant over a western bar. Food and wine go hand in hand in the Taiwanese culture, and wine is growing in popularity in this context.
The wine industry profited from the growing interest and popularity of local wine events such as the Wine & Gourmet Taipei Festival, the Taipei Wine & Spirits Festival and the Taichung International Wine Exhibition. These events provide wine enthusiasts with the chance to discover different varieties of wine and unique grape types and growing regions around the world.
A recent study by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF) declared that 54% of Taiwanese adults drink at least occasionally and amongst these drinkers, 30.8% preferred wine, beer drinking was still high up there (30.6%) and liquor shadowed behind at (29.4%). 45.8% of Taiwanese do not drink at all and 0.2% of those questioned refused to answer.
Taiwan is still one of the world’s least wine consuming countries (compared to spirits and beer) as indicated in the data from Statista below.
Wine Consumption per Capita, Asian markets, litres/year
Which of the following beverages do you regularly consume?
What is the market size in Taiwan
With a population of more than 23 million, Taiwan is one of the strongest wine markets in Asia. Since 2010, the consumption of wine in Taiwan has grown by 8.6% annually and Taiwanese imports of wine and spirits have reached $885 million in 2018, up to two percent compared to 2017.
Annual import value of wine in Taiwan
Wine drinkers in Taiwan show a particular preference for still wines.
Red wine once held over 80% of the market share. Strong wines such as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are still popular, but with many younger wine drinkers preferring to drink white wines, it is declining in popularity. White wines represent 10% of the total market share. Popular white wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Demand for light and sparkling wines is also enjoying rapid growth among Taiwanese.
Sweet wines are popular in Taiwan, such as world-famous Tokaj wine. This is a typical feature of a new wine market. Rosé wines remain a very niche product. White wines and rosé wines are most popular with those aged under 35.
How do the sales of Old World wines perform compare to New World wines
Taiwanese wine consumers still prefer European wines which are considered important and high quality. Italian, Spanish and French wines are solid favorites -specifically Burgundy, Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, and Champagne.
Chilean and Argentine wines are the most-consumed wines in Taiwan. Amongst younger wine drinkers, there has been a considerable swing towards New World wines such as those from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.
While European wines remain the major import into the market, the economic dip saw an increase in sales of lower-priced New World wines as retailers attempted to encourage sales.
Price per litre of wine exported into Taiwan?
France reigns supreme in the premium price division. There remains a strong demand for French wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy amongst particularly prosperous consumers.
The average price per litre is led by the French at US$12.13 and followed by the USA at US$11.27. Italy’s average price per litre is US$7.32 while Australian wines sell for US$5.35 per litre and Chilean wines at US$4.21.
How is wine distributed?
Online sales of alcohol beverages are illegal in Taiwan. Prestigious vintages are usually sold directly to consumers. And lower-priced wines are sold by wine retail shops, supermarkets, and restaurants.
Costco, Carrefour, and RT-Mart offer a range of imported wines at competitive prices. There are several specialty liquor store chains that cater to more informed drinkers, but many of the owners tend to recommend products based on revenue instead of customer satisfaction.
Taiwan is dominated by BYO culture amongst young adult consumers aged 20-40 (especially women), which means a large percentage of wine is bought off-premise and is then consumed on-premise. In restaurants that are frequented by young people, wines from the New World are gaining in popularity due to reasonable pricing.
What are the current issues market trends for wine in Taiwan?
Consumer drinking inclinations and patterns are greatly influenced by the press and social media, namely wine publications such as Decanter and Wine Spectator. The immensely popular wine-themed comic book Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God) also has influenced wine drinking in Taiwan. Fans of the comic purposely seek out wine vintages featured in the books and travel to the wineries in Europe featured.
“Half of the population of Taiwan lacks a gene that is required to properly metabolize alcohol”
A Stanford University research institute discovered that around half the population of Taiwan lacks a gene that is required to properly metabolize alcohol. Deficiency is common in the east, with 35 percent lacking the gene in China, 30 percent in Japan, and 20 percent in South Korea. This could affect wine sales in Taiwan.
Sales of red wine have boomed in the past after it was reported that red wine was good for the heart, but this information does not apply to Taiwanese with the deficiency according to the Stanford research, and instead, they can experience flushed faces, respiratory problems and even an increased risk of cancer when they drink.
There have been numerous scandals regarding the quality of wine sold in Taiwan recently, and wine consumers are paying more attention to buying wines with less artificial ingredients in them. Reputation in the wine industry is therefore important and award-winning wines and wineries are the most popular.
The Total Sales of Taiwan’s Alcoholic Beverage
Wine Intelligence’s 2017-2018 Global Compass report, indicates that Taiwan’s per capita consumption is now 1L, which is comparable to that of China and South Korea, therefore the consumer status has moved Taiwan from an ‘emerging market’ to a ‘growth market’.
Taiwan is a young, but quickly developing wine market that warrants attention. In less than 20 years the market has grown steadily. It is now sustained by a generation of increasingly sophisticated wine drinkers that are ready to broaden their wine knowledge and tasting skills. Red wine still dominates the market, but white wines and sparkling wines are gradually gaining recognition, especially with the under 35’s.
Debra Meiburg, author of Guide to the Taiwanese Wine Trade, sums up the Taiwanese market as “a very unique, robust, eager market … Taiwanese people are easygoing and relaxed and easy to deal with, so I encourage you all to consider this market.”