By James Wells in Shanghai
The first ever ProWine China is underway in Shanghai this week with over 25 Australian wineries exhibiting among 500 other wineries from 30 countries.
Among the Australian wineries exhibiting at ProWine China are: 1847 Fine Wines Barossa, Andrew Peace Wines, Bannockburn, Blaxland Wine Group, Brick Kiln, Brygon Reserve, Chateau Tanunda, Craiglee, Del Rios, Elderton, Farmer’s Leap, Jeanneret Wines, K1, Kingston Estate, Light’s View, Neilson Estate, PB1, Pepper Tree Wines, Philip Shaw, Sunshine Creek Wines, Vinea Marson, Woodstock Wines and Zilzie Wines.
ProWine China has launched at an important time as Australia is estimated to represent around 10 per cent of the wine imported into the country accessing massive populations, including Shanghai itself with a market of 24 million people alone, a larger population than the whole of Australia.
Wine is seen as an item of status not only by wealthy Chinese consumers but also the emerging and critically important younger generation, who are moving away from consuming high alcohol Chinese liquor such as baijiu or shaojiu, which can sometimes be incorrectly labeled as ‘white wine’ even though they have an ABV of over 50 per cent.
Chinese wine importer Joseph Yu told TheShout that “Australian wines have a reputation as being very strong and full bodied wines with big fruit that are easy to drink with Chinese food”.
Australian wineries exhibiting at ProWine China and interviewed by TheShout have experienced strong interest from Chinese trade buyers, but it is too early to tell whether this will translate into lucrative long term export contracts.
China is 30 different markets
Zilzie Wines international sales manager, Caroline Simonis, believes marketing to China requires specific strategies.
“China is not one market, it is 30 different provincial markets and you must treat them all differently,” she said.
Simonis admits that Zilzie's red wine consistently outsells white wine in the Chinese market by over “100 to 1” due to contributing factors including the colour of the wine liquid itself representing good fortune right through to special labels containing gold lettering to represent prosperity and status as well as featuring important Chinese symbols or characters. [continued below]
Chateau Tanunda general manager, Matthew McCulloch, has attempted to attract new Chinese buyers to his stand by erecting a specially designed sign which advertises for new agents in specific provinces. He argues that the remote inner Mongolia market represents a high per capita growth rate for wine sales.
Scott Collett, managing director of Woodstock Wines, says he is continuing to “unravel the mystery that is China”.
“There are many different routes to market. Gifts for example are a huge market and the scale of the local companies can mean that they can buy an entire container of wine just to give a bottle of wine to each member of staff.”
ProWine China is a joint venture between All World Exhibitions and the owner of the annual German ProWein fair – Messe Düsseldorf.
Michael Degen, executive director of Messe Düsseldorf, told a press conference this week that extensive consultation took place with existing ProWein exhibitors before the decision was made to launch ProWine China.
“Many ProWein exhibitors are excited about making business in China, as the potential is huge. The Chinese consumer is now learning about the varieties in wine. Five years ago in China there was a domination of French wines in stores and hotels, now wine menus feature wines from all over the world.”