Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Until the 1990s it was assumed—quite wrongly as it turned out—that this most populous of continents would never play an important role in the world of wine. There was something in the physical make-up of most Asians, it was thought by those in the continent which produces the lion’s share of all wine, that made them prefer either non-alcoholic or grain-based drinks. This assumption was rapidly disproved in the mid to late 1990s when the world’s auction prices were inflated at an unprecedented rate thanks largely to sudden interest from buyers in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Thanks to a boom in the so-called tiger economies, and the much-vaunted health benefits claimed for red wine, wine-drinking changed from bizarre foreign practice to status symbol in a remarkably short time in countries as varied as Thailand, Taiwan, India, Korea, and—the country with the greatest potential as both consumer and producer—China. Wine-drinking had already infiltrated Japan, and several other Asian countries have embarked on their own domestic wine industries, often based on table grapes initially, and sometimes bolstered by imported bulk wine, since the early 1990s. For details of individual countries, see bhutan, Cambodia, china, Hong Kong, india, indonesia, japan, Korea, myanmar, nepal, sri lanka, taiwan, thailand, and vietnam. See also the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics of azerbaijan, kazakhstan, kyrgyzstan, tajikistan, turkmenistan, and uzbekistan. Countries such as afghanistan, iraq, iran, jordan, pakistan, syria, and Yemen devote most of their vineyards to the production of drying grapes but israel, lebanon, and turkey all have flourishing wine industries.