Vietnam is now one of the most dynamic economies of the East Asia region. According to the World Bank, GDP per capita almost quadrupled between 2001 and 2021, while people lifted out of poverty rose by 10.2% in the decade between 2010 and 2020.
Also, although wine is not a traditional Vietnamese drink, wine consumption is expected to reach 13.7ml by 2027. This appetite for wine, with expected revenues of $229.20m in 2023 and a volume increase of 2.5% by 2024, is buoyed by the country’s dynamic economy enjoying 7% annual growth over the past 23 years including a 3% rise during the pandemic period. Vietnam’s middle class of 15%, in a population of almost 100m, is expected to increase to 36m people by 2030 — offering more possibilities for increased wine consumption.
Who drinks wine in Vietnam
While low-cost beer accounts for 75% of alcohol sales, the emerging wine sector is driven by professionals 35 to 45 years, and consumers in their 50 to 70s who are shifting to wine as an alternative to high alcohol beverages.
On-premises sales account for 60% of the market. Wine is also bought by businesses for the gift market in the lead up to the Vietnamese New Year festival, which can generate up to 70% of wine sales, and as end-of-year gifts for clients and employees.
In 2020, 88% of wine sales in Vietnam were priced at less than $10 per bottle. Current price points are predicted to increase moderately over the next five years in line with domestic spending constraints and economic impacts. However, local consumers believe imported wines are of higher quality, and aspirational consumers are willing to pay more for perceived higher quality products.
According to David Dean, president of the Australian-Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce (SA), locally produced wines account for 25% of the market. They are mainly sourced from Lam Dong Province located in the Central Highlands, home to several large vineyards and wineries, including Dalat Wine City, the largest winery in Vietnam.
Chilean wines are the leading imported wine category with a 25% share, ahead of French wines at 19% and Australian wine at 7%, followed by Italian, and US brands. The bestselling wines are reds with around 65% of the market, followed by whites with 25%, and sparkling wines with 10%.
Consumer behavior in Vietnam
The drinking culture in Vietnam is built around social etiquette, networking, and business relationships. Historically, there are crucial differences in alcohol consumption behaviors of people living in the main regions of Vietnam, as those from the North, Central and South share cultural and climate differences: a humid subtropical climate in Northern Vietnam with cold winters; a tropical monsoon climate in Central Vietnam; a tropical climate in Southern Vietnam with high temperatures and high humidity all year round.
Northern Vietnam-based wine consumers tend to be trend followers and pay strong attention to packaging, especially for gifted products, and have considerable knowledge of different brands. Heavier reds such as Shiraz are preferred here. Central Vietnam-based consumers tend to be less willing to try new brands. By contrast, people living in Southern Vietnam are classified as easygoing consumers who are willing to try new brands and are knowledgeable about different brands. Their preference is for ‘softer’ reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Where wine is sold in Vietnam
Traditionally, wines are imported, distributed, and sold across Vietnam. Major importers distribute but also retail through their chain stores. Companies that specialise in online sales often import wines and sell them under ‘home’ brands. Some hotels and restaurants import wines and sell them on-premise and distribute locally. Few retailers import wine and sell them via their network or online.
In addition to supermarket channels and convenience stores, chains like An Nam Gourmet sell a variety of wines in HCM City, Hanoi, and other larger cities. Shops specialising in selling different wines with different brands like Phuong Ha and Thai Ha are popular for Vietnamese and expats in HCM City.
While wines are not allowed to be publicly advertised, wine tastings or culinary showcases and F&B competitions along with business association and diplomatic functions provide avenues for wine promotion in Vietnam. Also, expat communities living in Vietnam host regular events and provide opportunities for new wines to be introduced, tasted, and sold.
Wine pricing in Vietnam
Vietnam wine prices can vary greatly. In addition to basic sales pricing formulas, selling prices are also set by consumers’ understanding of wine quality and demand for premium wines. Also, if the same type of wine of the same brand is bottled in Vietnam, its selling price will be very different from that of imported bottled versions. Online and offline prices will be different, and sometimes there is a significant price disparity for the same wine, with established brands being more expensive than online ‘home’ brands. Currently, the pricing of wine in Vietnam is challenging and plays an important role in the fierce competition among wine importers and distributors.
Vietnam deploys a range of duties and taxes that significantly impact costs. They vary and are subject to frequent changes. The main tariffs that are applicable to wine imports include a 50% import tax. However, free trade agreements provide variations to the tax. A 65% Special Sales Tax (SST) is applied to wines with an alcohol content above 20%; any concentration under this earns a 35% SST. A 10 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) is applied on all kinds of liquor including wine.
Wine expertise in Vietnam
Associations such the Saigon Sommeliers Association are recognised as key influencers in the market. Other prominent wine specialists in Vietnam include:
Bulk wine importers into Vietnam
Some of the main wine importers include:
- Saigon Alcohol Beer & Beverage Corporation (SABECO), one of the largest beverage companies in Vietnam that also imports and distributes wine;
- Vietnam National Distribution Corporation (VINATAXI), a large distribution company specializing in imports and distribution of wine;
- Vietnam-European Trading & Consultancy Joint Stock Company (VETAC), a trading and consultancy company focused on imports and distribution of European wine and liquors;
- ImpEx Beverages, a wine and beverage importer of premium wines from Chile, France, Italy, and Australia; and
- Wine & Spirits Trading Company (WST), a wine and spirits importer of premium and luxury wines from France, Italy, and Australia.
Retail wine outlets in Vietnam
Wine is available to buy in Vietnam from a variety of retail and hospitality outlets and wine shops.
Some of the main retail and hospitality outlets include:
- Supermarkets such as Metro, Big C, and Lotte Mart that carry a wide range of wine brands and varieties, from local to imported wines. The upmarket supermarket chain An Nam Gourmet is increasingly building a reputation for high-quality imported wines;
- Hotels and restaurants that offer a selection of wine on their menus and may also have wine lists that include local and imported options; and
- Dedicated retail outlets that specialize in the sale of wine. These wine stores are usually staffed by knowledgeable wine people and offer a wide selection of high-quality and imported wines.
Some of the main wine shops in Vietnam include:
- Wine Talk, a popular wine retailer offering a wide range of international wines including Chile, France, Italy, and Australia;
- Cellier, a premium wine retailer carrying a wide selection of high-end and luxury wines including premium Champagnes, Bordeaux, and Burgundy brands;
- The Wine Connection, which specialises in the import and sale of premium wines from France, Italy, Australia, and Chile and the Americas; and
- Thien Son Wines, a wine retailer offering a wide selection of local and imported wines including red, white, and sparkling wines; and
- Wine Avenue, which offers a range of local and imported wines, including red, white, and sparkling wines, as well as premium and high-end options.