China has surpassed France and Italy to become the biggest consumer of red wine in the world.

According to a joint report out of Vinexpo and The International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), Chinese oenophiles tipped back the equivalent of 1.865 billion bottles last year (or 155 million 9-liter cases).

That marks a 136 per cent growth since 2008.

For comparison, France consumed 150 million cases, while Italy consumed 141 million cases.

According to figures out of the IWSR, the consumption of red wine in China has been taking off since 2005, but showed particular growth between 2007 and 2013, rising 176 per cent.

At the same time, consumption in Italy declined about 6 per cent in the same period, while in France consumption plummeted a whopping 18 per cent.

Experts attribute the meteoric interest in red wine in China not only to the purported health benefits of red versus white, but also to the color’s cultural significance.

In China, the color red represents good fortune, strength and luck, making it the ideal drink to serve at banquets and parties, the report points out.

Interestingly, more than 80 per cent of the wine consumed in the country is also produced domestically, placing China as the fifth largest wine producer in the world.

The report was released in advance of a major wine trade fair, Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, set to take place in Hong Kong May 27-29.

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