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Word of Hawke’s Bay Wines Spreading In China

6 May 2013

Word of Hawke’s Bay Wines Spreading In China

Hawke’s Bay wines, in particular high quality reds, are steadily gaining exposure in the expansive Chinese market with two recent initiatives adding to the awareness. 

Four influential Chinese media writers visited the region and were hosted by Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers and five wineries, while four local wineries attended one of China’s most important international wine trade fairs, the Chengdu Wine & Spirits Fair.

Immediately after her visit, Sophie Liu, an independent wine writer and educator, has blogged positively about her time in Hawke’s Bay and is planning articles to appear in Wine World, Wine & Taste and World Cuisine magazines, as well as

Her colleague Fan Yiren, who is one of China’s most influential social bloggers with accumulated fans of 63,374,307 on one site and over 330,000 on Weibo (Chinese Facebook equivalent), blogged daily. He is also planning to write four to five feature blogs.

Also in the group was Kent Tsang, deputy GM and executive editor of Wine Magazine, a specialised lifestyle magazine with a circulation of 146,000 comprising the most discerning wine consumers throughout the country.

Elve Liu is sharing her observations with readers of Madame Figaro, an 800,000 circulation fashion, beauty and high-end lifestyle magazine targeting educated professional females aged 25 to 40. NZ Trade and Enterprise, who brought the four to New Zealand, is expecting a four to six page spread in the magazine about Ms Liu’s observations.

China is the leading Asian market for New Zealand wine exports, accounting for over 53 percent of New Zealand wine exports to Asia by value. China was New Zealand’s sixth largest export destination for wine in 2012, in terms of both value and volume.

“The exposure we can gain from such influential commentators is almost immeasurable,” says James Medina, executive officer with Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc.

“The cost of an ad in Madame Figaro is around $NZ27,000 per page. Suffice to say, that’s an amount beyond the reach of us locally, yet positive reviews will add hugely to the growing awareness and favourable impression our wines are gaining in China.”

This is reinforced by Alwyn Corban, managing director and chief winemaker of Ngatarawa. Mr Corban hosted the four to a regional tasting to give them an overview of the Hawke’s Bay’s wine story and a selection of leading wines to taste. The foursome also had the hands-on experience of picking some of the last reds of the winery’s vintage.

After the regional tasting the group expressed some surprise at the wines they had tasted. Ms Sophie Liu described the Cabernet Merlot wines as “very very different to the Bordeaux wines, much more masculine”. She also felt the style of Syrah produced in Hawke’s Bay which she said was “well balanced and sophisticated in its complexity”, would be very well received in China.

For Mr Yiren, who says he is unusual in his country as he prefers white to red wines, the Chardonnay came as a surprise. “I didn’t expect Chardonnay out of this region. It is very well made, round on the palate with a good balance of oaks and fruit.” He indicated that Chardonnay would find more favour in China than Sauvignon Blanc, and suggested Hawke’s Bay could put more effort into promoting this varietal in his country.

Mr Corban, whose winery has been exporting into China for a number of years, also attended the Chengdu Wine & Spirits Fair; Ngatarawa was one of the eight wineries to participate in the first-ever New Zealand Pavilion. Four other local wineries or those with wines made locally were included in the line up: Paritua Vineyards, Trinity Hill, Babich Wines and Villa Maria. Others were Vinoptima, Giesen Wine and Invivo Wines.

The Fair, now in its 88th year, attracted 260,000 visitors, with over half being wine professionals.  There were 3000 exhibitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan areas, plus 650 companies from 26 countries. 

“NZTE did a great job and Hawke’s Bay had a very good presence,” Mr Corban said. This was the fourth year Ngatarawa had been at the Fair “It’s an effective way to mix with your potential customers. We have a collection of business cards that we will be following up on.”

Michael Henley, chief executive officer with Trinity Hill also attended the Fair and reports that the Chinese market is “moving very rapidly”. He says that there is high interest in wine. He too gained positive leads from the fair but from experience knows it can take many months to convert to sales.

The men also attended a media event where journalists met with the wineries, for tastings on the first day of the show.


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