Educating China, access via Hong Kong

Kandy Xu; Chinese Wine Association of Australia; Damien Sheehan, Wine Victoria and Bonnie Shek, Hong Kong Trade Development Council Kandy Xu; Chinese Wine Association of Australia; Damien Sheehan, Wine Victoria and Bonnie Shek, Hong Kong Trade Development Council

A Wine Victoria 2014 Annual General Meeting presentation by Kandy Xu, Director Australian Kensington Wines and President of Chinese Wine Association of Australia (CWAA) reiterated the need to educate Chinese wine buyers in order to gain traction in export sales.

Translation is perhaps an underestimated sales tool for the burgeoning Chinese market, and language barriers could be overcome by solutions as simple as translating winegrower magazine stories to build up knowledge of Victoria's diverse wine regions. Online tools were also suggested, including creating a wine brand website in Mandarin, using Weibo or Wechat.

"The individual wine regions in Australia are not well known in China, but on the whole we are gaining more traction there," said Xu.

Xu also explained that Chinese generally "drink for prestige, not so much for the quality or competitive pricing of wine". She said Victorian suppliers will have a better chance at being on a Chinese wine buyer's product list if they have a personal connection with the buyer, which could be achieved by building up a presence through major wine exhibitions in large, first tier cities or wine fairs and road shows in second tier cities.

On our home turf, Victorian wine regions should leverage the opportunities offered by Chinese tourists who are already visiting Australia in large numbers.

"Hosting masterclasses or events specially for Chinese tourists would be an effective way to educate them and turn them into ambassadors for Victorian wine when they return back to China," said Xu.

Xu also brought up the need for Victoria to create a dedicated wine centre showcasing the state's diverse regions whilst offering a go-to place to represent Australian wines in the same vicinity.

Growing Hong Kong wine market and major wine fair

Staying with the Asia region, Bonnie Shek, Director Australia & New Zealand with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council introduced the group's Wine and Spirits Fair in Hong Kong as a platform to tap into the booming Asia market.

Since 2012, China is now the largest trading nation in the world, with the value of trade goods exceeding US$4 trillion. Hong Kong, operating on a one country, two systems concept, offers numerous advantages for international trade partners due to its economic and administrative autonomy from the Chinese mainland.

These include an open, transparent and efficient government, strong anti-corruption culture, low and simple tax, and a level playing field for local and international businesses.

Wine sales in China are forecast to grow 17% per annum in value and 10% in volume for 2013-2017. Hong Kong people in particular are considered the most sophisticated wine drinker in Asia, as wine drinking is perceived as a healthy habit.

In 2013, imports of wine to Hong Kong amounted to US$1.03 billion, an 180% increase from 2008 when Hong Kong government abolished wine duties, and it is expected that wine consumption will increase another 40% to 4.78 million cases in 2016.

The Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair was inaugurated in 2008 after the wine tax was abolished in Hong Kong and will next be held on November 5-7, 2015.

This year the fair had nearly 20000 buyers and more than 1000 exhibitors from 40 countries and regions including Australia, where the only Victorian exhibitor was the Yarra Valley.

Exhibitors can access numerous activities such as wine tasting sessions, master classes, cocktail demonstrations, gala dinner and networking events, plus the concurrent Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition, which runs in partnership with the prestigious London-based International Wine & Spirit Competition now in its 40th year.

Australian wines won the most medals, taking out 467 medals including 28 gold.