The Rise of Natural Wine in China:  A Growing Trend with Unique Characteristics.

19 MAR 2024

The Rise of Natural Wine in China: A Growing Trend with Unique Characteristics.

Author: Sylvia

Once confined to a niche market, natural wine has made its way to virtually every corner of the world. As a passionate aficionado and an advocate of low intervention wine, I find its evolution to be fascinating. It compels me to provide accurate information and knowledge in order to enlighten consumers and dispel misconceptions of natural wine. I derive immeasurable satisfaction from introducing importers to the amazing natural wines made by dedicated winemakers.

China, which has become an important market in the global wine industry in the past two decades, is no exception in today’s natural wine trend. In the past five years, the natural wine movement in China has experienced significant growth. This movement was initially driven by expatriates and seasoned wine professionals with international experiences. They set out on a voyage to introduce and champion organic, biodynamic and natural wine, eventually establishing China's first import companies and wine bars with a strong focus on low intervention wines in big cities.

Subsequently, natural wine events brought this movement to new heights. In 2019, Ziran, China's natural wine association formed by several natural wine importers, organized the country's first natural wine fair. Consequently, at the 2021 Wine to Asia Fair, organized by Vinitaly International, an entire section was devoted to the world of “Living Wine”, and most recently, in August 2023, the first orange wine festival took place in Shanghai, highlighting the flourishing scene of natural wines.

During my most recent trip to China in March, I had the opportunity to visit several natural wine establishments and had intriguing conversations with natural wine importers in Shanghai. I am thrilled to share my reflections and observations on the burgeoning natural wine market in China.

Echoing the Global Natural Wine Trends

In China, as elsewhere, natural wine appeals primarily to urban millennials and Gen Z individuals with disposable income. Although the natural wine movement in China emerged later than in Europe, young Chinese wine enthusiasts quickly embraced the concept. They were drawn to its trendiness, approachability, and eye-catching labels. Natural wine in China is more about casual consumption among friends, gatherings, and after-work relaxation, rather than being reserved for gifting or formal occasions.

In terms of origin, the natural wine trend has opened doors for wines from lesser-known wine countries or regions. In the traditional wine market, major wine-producing countries dominate, as do renowned wine regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, and Tuscany. However, with the rise of natural wine, hidden gems from wine regions like Umbria in Italy, Savoie in France, Rheinhessen in Germany, and even wines from the Czech Republic, Georgia, and Slovenia have become accessible to average wine consumers.

Simultaneously, the boom in domestic wine production in northwest China, particularly in Ningxia, coincided with the natural wine trend. The natural wine movement in China extends beyond the consumer market to the production side. Small, boutique wineries have embraced organic and biodynamic farming, low intervention winemaking practices, and some even produce macerated white wines, or known as orange wines.

The Chinese Palate for Natural Wine

China has traditionally been perceived as a market focused on red wines for various reasons. In the traditional wine market, this remains true, although, in recent years, Chinese wine consumers have gradually expanded their palates beyond the fondness for rich, robust red wines with high alcohol content. There is an increasing appreciation for white wines and a growing interest in Burgundy-style wines. The natural wine market, however, tells a different story.

According to natural wine importers and wine bar managers, white and orange wines are the top sellers, followed by light-bodied reds. Chinese natural wine enthusiasts, residing in bustling metropolitan areas, tend to prefer juicy, easy-drinking, and refreshing wines over complex reds which need decanting. When it comes to grape varieties, aromatic options such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and Malvasia, as well as lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay, are favored. However, what matters most to them is taste, rather than being fixated on specific grape varieties. In contrast to many wine markets, China's off-trade channel heavily relies on e-commerce. White wines are particularly appealing to young Chinese consumers, making them even more dominant in the e-commerce sector due to their aesthetic appeal.

The majority of natural wines available in the Chinese market originate from Europe, particularly France and Italy. Natural wine importers explain that this preference arises from the extensive choices available in these countries, making it easy to find high-quality wines at reasonable prices. Chinese consumers also hold favorable opinions of France and Italy as wine-producing countries known for their quality. As mentioned earlier, wines from lesser-known countries and regions, including domestic wines, are also gaining traction, providing diversity for the natural wine scene. Compared to traditional label-driven drinkers, natural wine consumers are more curious and open to trying new things, placing greater emphasis on taste over accolades and fame.

Female Conumers and Natural Wine

During my visits and work with the Chinese natural wine market, I couldn't help but notice that the majority of natural wine consumers are women. This gender disparity is not as pronounced in the European natural wine scene. I received confirmation from natural wine professionals working in China, who pointed out the remarkable influence of the "She-economy". Young women in major Chinese cities, with decent incomes and a desire for a higher quality lifestyle, are particularly drawn to natural wine. They are attracted by the artistic labels and the stories of craftsmanship associated with these wines.

In a patriarchal society like China, male wine drinkers often associate wine consumption with business events and social status while female consumers view wine as a source of enjoyment. For casual drinking, men tend to opt for cheaper options such as beer or spirits due to the relatively higher cost of wine in China compared to the income level in China. This dichotomy may explain the prevalence of male label-driven wine consumers and the larger number of female natural wine enthusiast

Challenges in the Chinese Natural Wine Market

As a relatively new market, the wine industry in China, natural or conventional, is not yet fully mature. In comparison to more established markets, Chinese consumers' perception of natural wine still centers around notions like "funky," "easy-drinking," and "interesting labels" without delving into a deeper understanding of the fuller picture of the natural wine world. Moreover, Chinese young people exhibit less concern for sustainability compared to their Western counterparts. Even in mega-metropolitan areas like Shanghai, the enthusiasm for eco-lifestyles, organic products, vegetarian or vegan diets is less pronounced than in cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin.

As a wine marketer, I strongly believe the development of the wine market relies on dedicated professionals. Sadly, China lacks influential wine educators, wine journalists, or writers focused on promoting low-intervention wines. The responsibility for educating and marketing natural wines falls heavily on the shoulders of natural wine importers and merchants. On Chinese social media platforms such as RED, some natural wine influencers may lack systematic knowledge of wine and their content can be misleading for consumers. Some even explicitly advertise unusual, eccentric aromas and flavors as the hallmark of natural wine, without educating the audience on the winemaking process, philosophy, and terroir.

Part of the issue lies in the fact that most wine professionals in China have been trained within the WSET system, myself included. While many may possess a solid foundation in wines from major regions worldwide, their knowledge of viticulture and enology related to organic, biodynamic, and low-intervention winemaking practices may fall short. Without a deep understanding of these practices, they tend to focus on promoting larger commercial brands or fine wines. My personal journey reflects this shift in perspective, as I developed a greater appreciation for low intervention wines after moving to Europe, gaining a better understanding of viticulture and winemaking, and having easier access to immerse myself in the center of the world’s wine production.

After engaging in conversations with professionals working in the natural wine scene in China, we reached a consensus that the natural wine movement is not merely a passing trend. Similar to other parts of the world, it is poised to become a lasting, continuous, and important category in the world of wine. However, in China, there is still a long road ahead. The process may be prolonged due to the need for the market to mature, as well as economic factors that need to stabilize. A prosperous economy in China could potentially trigger a second wave of natural wine popularity. Despite these challenges, natural wine consumption venues continue to proliferate. Nearly every month sees the opening of a new natural wine bar in China, not only in major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen but also in smaller inland cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, and Changsha, which have a dynamic urban millennial base. Despite the current number of venues that may appear excessive for what the market demands, it represents a promising start for the natural wine movement in China.


Sylvia (2023).  The Rise of Natural Wine in China:  A Growing Trend with Unique Characteristics. Sourced: