By James Wells

Asia's largest liquor event, the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, attracted 40 Australian exhibitors this year and 18 percent more Australian buyers compared to 2010.

"This year, the fair registered record numbers for both exhibitors and buyers," said Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) deputy executive director Benjamin Chau.

"After only four years, the fair has become the largest international wine event in Asia, playing an important role in establishing Hong Kong as the region's wine-trading hub."

Hong Kong imports of wine were up 57 percent, year-on-year, to US$940 million, over the first nine months of 2011.

McLaren Vale's Matthew Rechner, from Paper Eagle and Ekhidna Wines, said he was using the event to look for more distribution and he found it quite easy to discern between the "tyre kickers" and the "serious buyers".

"We already have distribution in Beijing and the container breakdown in Mainland China is around 70-75 percent low to entry level products which are priced at around the $A5 FOB price point. The mid range priced at the $A10-11 mark represents around 20-25 percent of the container breakdown and the high end between 5-10 percent. However, we have products priced over the $A60 price point that are selling."

Rechner, who was exhibiting at the event for the first time, said there was still a tendency for the entry level wine consumer in Mainland China to mix wine with coke and soda. Lighter alcohol wines are also more attractive at the low end.

Hunter Valley based winery Pepper Tree Wines exhibited at the show for the first time this year and chairman John Davis told TheShout he has received some strong leads in Mainland China and Russia.

"The consumers here on the public day are still a bit intimidated, but the ones who have a bit of knowledge are prepared to show off. I was surprised by the number of people at the event. We have done the Singapore event where the knowledge is probably a bit better, but we have seen nothing like the number of people at this event," Davis said.

Kurtz Wines' Steve Kurtz, who is a first generation winemaker, a fourth generation winegrower and sixth generation resident of the Barossa, told TheShout that the visitors to the event were primarily interested in the Shiraz wine variety as that was "what they know".

Kurtz said he would return to the show if there were some distributors on board that he could support.

"The concept of wine that they call powerful is different to what we would call it in Australia. Chinese consumers are looking for something that is not too young or bold and they are looking for something that has some older fruit or is on the sweeter side."

Director of Australian export company Wine Bank of Australia, Malcolm Leask, told TheShout the show created interest from Malaysia and Indonesia as well as four strong leads from Mainland China.

"There is a lot of private label interest at the entry point which does provide us with an opportunity to build a bigger relationship in the next 12-18 months," Leask said.

The Shout Team

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