A study showed Tuesday that China is expected to be the world's seventh largest wine consumer by 2013, as the nation's thirst for vintages continues to grow amid an economic boom.
The country will consume around 1.26 billion bottles of wine in 2013, an increase of about 32 percent from 2009, according to findings of Vinexpo, organizer of one of the world's largest wine and spirits exhibitions.
China was the eighth largest wine consumer last year, behind leader Italy, France and the United States in the top three spots.
"Asia, particularly China -- including Hong Kong-- and India, have become key growth markets for the world's wine and spirits industry," said Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, which will be held in May 25-27 in Hng Kong.
Imported wines only accounted for 11.8 percent of China's consumption in 2008, with France being the largest overseas supplier. But their market share will climb to about 15.8 percent in 2013, according to Vinexpo.
Within Asia, India is expected to be the fastest-growing wine market, with annual consumption projected to double between 2009 and 2013, the study showed. This is followed by Hong Kong, whose demand for wine is expected to surge 72 percent over the next three years.
One in three bottles of wine drunk in Hong Kong comes from France, the findings indicated.
The study attributed the significant growth of consumption in Hong Kong to the government's decision to abolish wine duty in 2008 to establish the city as an international wine hub.
"The decrease in taxes makes cheaper wines more popular," the study noted, with marked growth in sales of wine priced under 10 US dollars.
Auction house giants Sotheby's and Christie's both said last year that the southern Chinese city had overtaken New York and London as the world's largest market for rare vintages.
Sotheby's raised 14.3 million dollars from just two auctions in Hong Kong last year, almost double the figure raised by eight wine sales held in London by late October.
At Sotheby's latest wine sale in October, mainland Chinese buyers accounted for as much as 35 percent of the total number of buyers, compared to 10 percent in its April sale here -- the first one held by the auction house in the region.