Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016: A Toast to China’s Growing Love for Wine

 

China’s giant wine industry took centre stage in the recently held Vinexpo in Hong Kong, as most of the industry outlook, figures, and updates about the wine trade involved China and its growing love for vino.

 
‘China is Back’

Vinexpo Body 1“China is back,” said Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise. The wine trade exhibit gathered more than 17,000 members of the industry last week at the Hong Kong Convention Centre, from  May 24 to 26 of this year.

While final figures for the attendees have yet to be tallied and verified, the event has been a huge success as Deglise said, “Even by the second day, we already surpassed the visitors numbers [17,000] from last year.”

 
For Wine Professionals

What makes Vinexpo Hong Kong different from other wine-related trade events is its focus on professionalism. The event features wine professionals, quality exhibitors and senior-level attendees who are there to do business, not drink.

Vinitaly, for example, has a reputation for having a fun, party-like atmosphere. The event is almost too relaxed and geared towards wine drinkers and lovers, rather than professionals.

ProWein, meanwhile, is all for business, but is too serious for a  trade event, more so for one revolving around wines.

Back to Vinexpo HK, 70% of the attendees came from great China– the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. This just shows that the Chinese could really be taking a break from tea and are turning to grapes than leaves.

The other 30% of attendees flew in from different parts of Asia, including Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Most attended the trade show to grow their network, meet with suppliers, discover new blends, and to learn more about the region’s wine trade.

The event was mostly by-invitation only; Vinexpo sent invitations to wine and spirits trades professionals months before the event. Walk-in visitors were allowed, but were required to pay an entrance fee.

Trade visitors enjoyed three days of “learning, experiencing and sharing ideas with wine and spirits producers, merchants and key decision-makers from all over the world…”

It featured 1300 exhibitors from all over the world, with 16,700 buyers hailing from 24 countries.

 
Celebrating 300 Years of Chianti Classico

This year, Tuscany’s Chianti Classico celebrates three centuries of history, quality, and tradition. On 24th September 1716, Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici issued a notice defining the areas that are particularly well-suited for producing fine quality wines.

The notice was titled “On the Declaration of the boundaries of the four regions Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Vald’Arno di Sopra”. The largest area included a territory between Florence and Siena, where Chianti was created.

The Chianti Classico was celebrated in the Vinexpo Hong Kong, with a booth and exhibition by ten wineries that showcased their Black Roster wines. These vintners were:

  • Badia a Coltibuono

  • Barone Ricasoli

  • Bibbiano

  • Castello di Fonterutoli

  • Felsina

  • Le Regge

  • Orsumella

  • Rocca delle Macie

  • Rocca di Cispiano

  • Villa Trasqua

Decanter Magazine also organised a masterclass, “Chianti Classico Gran Selezione– the new top official tier of Chianti Classico wines”, which included a tasting presented by Decanter’s consultant for Italian vintages, Ian D’Agata.

 
Jack Ma, Alibaba, and China’s Wine Shopping

Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company, also presented during the Vinexpo HK. Founder and CEO Jack Ma said its first wine sales day is expected to attract 100 million online shoppers looking for fine vintages. Ma said his company is also keen on trying a direct importing service.

Early this year, Ma, who is the second richest man in China, acquired his own wine Chateau in Bordeaux. The Chateau has a castle and an expansive vineyard, both of which have been there for more than 200 years.

Alibaba is expecting ‘triple-digit’ growth in their wine business over the next three years. They’re also predicting that 100 million consumers will buy wine on 9 September, which will be the first ‘wine day’ celebration in China.

ASC Fine Wines, which held a joint symposium with Alibaba during the expo, said they were keen on tapping into Alibaba’s 400 million-strong customer base in China. They are also looking into the possibility of selling premium and rare wines to the 150,000 holders of  ‘Alibaba Passport’, the e-commerce site’s high-end consumer club.

 
Online Sales to Grow

Vinexpo 2‘(Chinese) people have already formed a steady habit to buy online,’ particularly bulky products such as wine, said Alibaba Group chief marketing officer Chris Tung.

Currently, China’s wine and spirits market is valued at 10 billion  RMB in annual sales. Thirty percent of these sales occurred online, and half of those were through Alibaba.

Tung said sales of wines and spirits in China could climb to 60 billion in the next two years.

Alibaba would like to “build a bridge between wine companies and consumers,” Tung said.

“If you are serious about China, you’d open a flagship store (on Tmall.com). The brand representation in other channels is never as good as a flagship store.”