Thu 31 May 2012
Getting in on the action: After France's success, California and Australia are eying up the Chinese wine market.
China's interest in French wine is undeniable. Since duty on imported wine was abolished in 2008, Hong Kong has been ordering Bordeaux wine in droves.
Last year, the country imported 117.9 million litres of wine from France, a rise of 73.9 per cent year-on-year. But is it now the turn of other wine regions to tap into the ever-growing Chinese wine market?
Evidence shows that there is plenty to go around. Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development Gregory SO Kam-leung recently told The Drinks Business that Hong Kong recorded wine sales of $1.2 billion (£77 million) last year and brings in the most value from wine auctions than any other country (totalling $229 million in 2011).
"China is now the fifth largest wine consumer in the world, and it is believed it will increase by 54 per cent in 2013," he said.
After France, Australia is the next biggest exporter of wine to China. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences show that the market reached AU$181 million (£113 million) in 2010-11.
However, it has somewhat of a bad perception from Chinese consumers that Australian winegrowers will want to change. That is, that Australian wine is cheap and of lesser quality.
Speaking recently to news.com.au, Professor Zhangyue Zhou, director for the Centre for AusAsia Business Studies at James Cook University, said Australian winegrowers should promote expensive wines in China to improve its image and take advantage of the growing market.
"As a country we are not doing a good job of promoting our wine to the Chinese market," he told the news provider.
The country's neighbours New Zealand are also hoping to get in on the act, but financial services provider Rabobank has warned local vineyards that they should target the Chinese market differently, namely catch younger, more affluent consumers in Asia.
And with the rush of brands coming to market, the company recommends that winemakers promote themselves together as a New Zealand brand.
Indeed, this is something that France is doing as well. Despite its dominance in the Chinese wine market, newly elected French president Francois Hollande has announced he will promote French wine in China beyond traditional Bordeaux, but by incorporating 400 different wines from 12 regions across France, in order to encourage consumers to expand their horizons and try something new.
The task could be difficult. Chinese consumers are developing their own tastes for new wines, with California also competing to grab a share of the market.
Again targeting the high-end consumer, Californian winemakers are marketing their top quality vintages, although sales are getting stronger for mid-level brands as well.
"We try to be in all of the same places as all of the other important wines of the world and right now China is attracting so much attention," Don Weaver from Napa Valley's Harlan Estates told the Associated Press.
"Trying to solve the China puzzle is the most exciting part of my job right now."
Marketing campaigns have been run in China by the Californian wine industry and to boost their efforts even further, the California Wine Institute has recently set up an office in China, which will run wine promotional activities in the country and even target the Californian lifestyle to consumers.
If the importance of China to the global wine industry was not clear enough, the Vinexpo wine and spirit trade event, which was held in Hong Kong from May 29th-31st, should be.
Visitor numbers from the first day were 38 per cent higher than its last event in 2010 and it is expected that as many as 15,000 people could walk through its doors over the three days.
It saw over 1,000 companies, producers and exporters from 28 countries vie for space in the Chinese market hoping to take home just a slice of France's success.
- “Winning a silver medal in the HKIWSC has truly helped my product to achieve international credibility regarding its taste. This has positively affected
decisionmaking of several new merchants who now carry my product.”Kaustav BagchiOwner, Lamai Thai Spirits
- “Louis Royer Cognac has been entering the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition for many years. This competition is regarded as the most respected in Asian countries. Winning an award is a high honour for our brand and a further seal of quality for our multi-award winning Cognac.”Carol FrugierMarketing and Communications Manager, Louis Royer Cognac
- “Adding to our success over the past few years at the HKIWSC, winning a trophy means so much to us as we have just recently entered the Chinese market with our brandies. The Chinese market is unique, which makes it even more exciting to know that Oude Molen VOV Brandy is well accepted.”Kobus GelderblomBrandy Master, Oude Molen Distillery
- “It is a great honour for us to receive this award and we are very thankful about the reputation from wine enthusiasts in China. This award is a testament to the fact that our white wines not only match the traditional Austrian food but also matches perfectly with the Asian cuisine.”Katja PflogschWinemaker, Domäne Wachau
- “Having won three trophies in the last four years in different food & wine matching categories at HKIWSC has showcased Pegeric Pinot Noir and its suitability with Asian cuisines leading to its listing with one of Australia’s top restaurant – Melbourne’s iconic Flower Drum.”Chris CormackCEO, Pegeric Wines
- “To get recognition from such a prestigious panel is
veyrewarding indeed, and proves that our wines are made in a style that is truly food friendly. The HKIWSC has become one of the year’s most well-respected wine competitions globally. For us, the food match component is a fantastic chance to demonstrate how well our wines compliment so many different flavours. Moreover, it is a competition known and valued by our customers so a trophy can be hugely influential.””Susanna MayerWinemaker, Yealings
- “Awards and medals at the HKIWSC have been like a stamp of approval to the quality of our wines. Because it is an Asian-focused competition, I know that my wines are being judged and measured by the same yardstick as all the other wines, given our viticultural conditions are quite unique compared with the rest of the world. These medals give me and, more importantly, my consumers the confidence that my wines stand apart from the competition.”Kalash GurnaniWinemaker, York Winery
- “We are very proud of our results. One of our key focuses is the Asian market, so we really want to make our wines special and desirable for this market. That’s why we want to enter this competition and be evaluated by the expert judging panel.”Sofia Cajewski Winemaker, Cremaschi Furlotti
- “We at Yealands Estate Wines are proud to be
recognizedby the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition. The organizationis held in the highest regard and our success in the competitions has become a strong voice for our quality around the globe.”Avram DeitchGlobal Marketing Manager, Yealands Wine Group
- “Winning awards in reputable international wine shows such as the Cathay Pacific HKIWSC is one of the many ways of educating our consumers and giving them confidence in purchasing the Saint Clair brand. This enhances brand perception
increases sales across our entire portfolio of wines.”Maria EastonWinemaker, Saint Clair Family Estate anin turn