Foreigners who built Shanghai brought their drinking habits with them. Chinese people had been drinking various kind of rice alcohol for centuries, but foreigners brought new kinds of alcoholic drinks. Beer, Gin, Whisky came in as well as wine. Pictures of the Ruan Lingyu “love & Duty” showed wine and Brandy being served and drunk in 1930s Shanghai (see post “Love and Duty” for more details). This is also visible on below wine list of the Sun Sun department store sky terrace, one of the fashionnable restaurant in the 1930s.
Wine import in China in the 1930s was quite a big business, as shown in yearly customs report “The Trade of China”. This gives significant statistics and data about import in China. Details are provided on alcoholic drinks in various categories. I looked at the 1933 and 1934 statistics.
Champagne is the first wine listed in the statistics. 33 986 liters of Champagne were imported in 1933, and 36 551 liters in 1934. Of this, 77% was from France in 1933 and 86% in 1934. At that time, the name of Champagne was not yet protected so Champagne could be made out of the French Champagne region. Other countries included Italy and Great Britain (probably re-exporting). Unsprisingly, about 2/3 of the import went through Shanghai Port, 1/3 through Tianjin Port.
The next category is “Still Wines, in bottles”. Red or whites were unfortunately not separated. Just like today, this was surely the most expensives wines that were transported bottled. 46 085 litters were imported in 1933 and 38 323 in 1934. Out of this, France had 54% in 1933 and 41% in 1934. Second place was Germany with 20% in 1933 and 25% in 1934, that was probably all white wine. Italy came third with 10% in 1933 and 19% in 1934. Main port of entries were Shanghai with 62% and Tianjin 17%. Mengtsz came in with 12%. Since the city was the main place for France in South Yunnan, it was surely import from French Indochina transported on the famous French Yunnan railways.
The last category is “Still Wines, in bulk”. Lower quality wines were transported bulk to be bottled locally. In 1933, 677 289 liters of wine were imported in bulk, in `1934 896 739. This is 14.75 times more than import of bottles in 1933 and 23.44 more times in 1934. France was the leader in the market with 46% market share in 1933, and a stagering 85% in 1934. The country faced massive overproduction of wine in those years and took action to massively export its surplus. Spain was second with 43% in 1933, and a market sharply reducing to 7% in 1934. Italy was third with 13% in 1933 and 4.8% in 1934. Other countries Chile, Egypt, Germany, UK, Greece, Japan, Palestine and Portugal.
Just like today, wine was a major export for France. When wine consumption was mostly in Shanghai in the 1930s, it has now grown all over China and import volumes are counted in hundreds of million of litters. Still the first country of origin for wine import in 2019 was France with 30%. Followed Australia, where winemaking was still in its beginning in the 1930s, with 26%. Third came Chile with 16%, then Spain with 11% and Italy with 6%. Just like in the 1930s, imported wine in Shanghai today is mostly from France.
For further reading on this topic, please go to post Burgundy wines in Old Shanghai. For information about food import, please go to post Vegs in a can.
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