In a region where red wine is king, Kuala Lumpur has stepped out of the shadow cast over Asia by Old World wines. Young, middle class Malaysians are spending more of their rising disposable incomes on premium wine products and leaning towards the lighter white styles of New World wines.
In 2017, Malaysia’s wine and spirits market grew 12%, with a turnover of M$236m ($56.72m), according to statistics from the French trade commission, Business France Malaysia. In the five years to 2016, wine imports had grown an impressive 23% to about $86m. Australia leads the way, capturing 46% of the market, followed by France (15%), Chile (6%) and the USA (6%).
According to business analytics company GlobalData, wine is increasingly seen by young urbanites as a lifestyle drink to be enjoyed socially with friends and family – a modern, fashionable choice distinct from the brandy and whisky their parents drink at weddings, celebrations and Chinese New Year. GlobalData predicts the compound annual growth rate of wine expenditure per capita will grow by 7.5% to 2021, boosting mid-market and premium wine sales.
Supermarkets dominate the off-trade, with home-grown grocery chains leading in terms of choice, quality, variety and depth, says Thomas Ling, an industry consultant, educator and sommelier. Jaya Grocer and Village Grocer each have well-stocked, well-priced wine sections, whereas the price-centric hypermarkets AEON, Isetan and Giant conveniently offer large, affordable selections of mainstream wines, but at the expense of diversity.
Chinese convenience stores Herbs N Food, Tong Woh Enterprise and Hock Choon Supermarket also attract wine enthusiasts. While specialist wine stores do exist, they struggle to match the convenience of these other channels.