“The China story is really impressive and it has still got a long way to go,” he said.
“The success has seemingly come quite quickly, but that said, those who are really enjoying the success there have actually been there for 10 to 15 years.”
Wine Australia data shows a decade-high $2.65 billion in total exports as at March 2018. Photo: Wine Australia
The boom in value is demonstrated by Aussie wine fetching more at the price point, with bottled product seeing an average value of $5.74 per litre.
The success is being put down to a trend of premiumisation, where worldwide consumers are open to spending more money for a better drop.
Mr Clark said it had done wonders for winemakers and producers looking to market a quality product.
“Basically, people are prepared to pay for quality,” he said.
“They may be drinking a bit less, but what they are drinking … they want to enjoy a quality experience.”
Can the Chinese market continue to grow?
China is Australia’s second-largest market by volume, with Australia exporting about 10 million cases more to the United Kingdom.
However, the country has kicked ahead in value terms, with the gap between the second-placed United States now more than $600 million.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said with tariffs into China likely to be scrapped by next year, there was space to grow even further.
“The government anticipates the value and volume of wine exports to China will only grow as tariffs for Australian wine into China will be entirely removed from January 1 next year,” Ms Ruston said.
“Regional Australia continues to benefit from higher exports. We’re not going to get rich selling to ourselves.”
Mr Clark said while the industry would continue to make inroads in China, it would be difficult to sustain growth forever.
“At some point in time, it will drop off by definition,” he said.
Australian wine exports from the past 12 months are up 16 per cent across the board. Photo: ABC Growing opportunities for family owned labels
Coonawarra winemaker Luke Tocaciu has experienced the benefits and struggles of breaking into a foreign wine market.
As director of a family winemaker business, he said overseas export markets such as China could offer producers significant returns eventually.
“We spent a fair bit of time finding the right distributors. For us being represented as a family business was quite important,” he said.
“It was about growing into those markets in a sustainable fashion as well.”
His family winemakers, Patrick of Coonawarra, now export two to three times a year into China and the United States.
“Export makes up about 20 per cent of our business at the moment, but we’re looking to grow that. Upwards of 50 per cent in the next few years would be fantastic,” Mr Tocaciu said.
“I think China is probably our main focus at this stage, not only volume but value growing as well.
“That says to us that China are drinking a lot more of our premium wine, which is fantastic for our brand and Coonawarra in general.
“It is hard to get through a lot of that red tape and things like that, but once you’ve done it a few times and learnt the process it is quite easy after that.
“Certainly every market is very different.”