Bigger and better

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


With Hong Kong established as the most important city in Asia for the global wine trade, VINEXPO Asia-Pacific 2012, which opens today at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, is one of the trade show highlights of the year.

More than 14,000 visitors from 33 countries are expected to attend the three-day show. They will meet exhibitors and attend conferences, seminars and tastings.

Professional visitors should be able to leave with an expanded list of business contacts and an enhanced understanding of the dynamic wine and spirits business in the Asia-Pacific. The sophistication of the wine and spirits trade, and of consumers, around the region, has greatly increased since the first Hong Kong show in 1998.

'Many exhibitors were impressed by how visitors' knowledge, curiosity and appreciation of the products on show had improved [at the last show in 2010]', says Dominique Heriard Dubreuil, president of VINEXPO Asia-Pacific. 'This was reassuring for wine and spirits exporters.'

This year's exhibition is the seventh edition of the show, and although it was staged in 2000 and 2002 in Tokyo, it returned to Hong Kong in 2006 and has been held here every two years since.

The wine and spirits business in Asia is booming. According to the annual VINEXPO/IWSR Study of the global wine and spirits market last year, overall sales on the mainland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia were worth US$142.5 billion, including US$18.6 billion-worth of wine. Asia remains the region with the world's highest consumption of spirits.

Exhibition space at the show quickly sold out. No fewer than 1,050 exhibitors from 28 countries are attending, and stand space has been fully booked since December 2011 - three months earlier than sales for the 2010 edition.

According to the organisers, because the 2010 show broke all visitor attendance records with 12,617 professionals - up 42 per cent compared with 2008 - from 25 countries, and 882 exhibitors from 35 countries - also up by 27.4 per cent - this year it was determined that the space would expand by 2,000 square metres, bringing total floor area to 10,500 square metres.

Although the show is global in its purview, it is organised by a French company, and France and its European neighbours are strongly represented. A 1,000-square-metre French pavilion is expected to be one of the busiest areas, and many of the top names in French wines and spirits have booked stands.

Among them are Remy Cointreau, Castel Freres, Maison Louis Latour, Champagnes Louis Roederer and Billecart-Salmon, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Bernard Magrez Grands Vignobles, Hugel & Fils, Georges Duboeuf, Frapin and La Martiniquaise, and Maison Louis Jadot.

Among the Bordeaux chateaux exhibiting is Ch?teau Malartic-Lagraviere, a Grand Cru Classe de Graves which was one of only six estates in Bordeaux to be recognised under the 1953 Graves Classification for both its red and white wines. Extensively modernised since a change of ownership in 1997, the ch?teau is one of the pioneers of modern Bordeaux winemaking.

China is an important export market for French wine. France exported 8.37 million cases to China in 2010, and 5.42 million cases to Japan. This year, 47 per cent of the total stand floor space has been taken by non-French exhibitors

Also exhibiting from the Old World are such iconic companies and labels as Spain's Miguel Torres and Gonzalez-Byass; Germany's Egon Muller Scharzhof, and Henkell & Co; Italy's Banfi Distribuzione and Luigi Cecchi; Britain's Ian Macleod Distillers and Angus Dundee Distillers; Finland's Lignell & Piispanen; Greece's Sigalas and Katsaros; Switzerland's Groupe Schenk and Rouvinez Vins; Poland's Bartex-Bartol Spolka Jawna and Hungary's Torley.

The New World is more strongly represented than ever, with almost 50 companies from Australia and New Zealand, and 30 wineries from South Africa, including regulars such as Cape Legends and Rupert & Rothschild, and newcomers such as Van Loveren.

South Africa more than doubles its total stand area to 234 square metres; Australia increases by 600 per cent since it last took a pavilion, and the United States by 56 per cent.

South American wines, which are well-established in the moderately priced table wine sector, are looking to showcase their higher-end production, and exhibitors will include Concha y Toro and Montes from Chile; Familia Zuccardi, Catena Zapata and Grupo Penaflor from Argentina; and 15 Uruguayan producers in a national pavilion.

The United States is also fielding a strong team of producers from the country's premium quality wine regions. The Wine Institute of California, Napa Valley Vintners, and the state of Washington all have pavilions, while the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Jackson Family Wines have their own stand space.

Although much of the focus will inevitably be on the potential of the market for fine wine - Chinese consumption reached 156.19 million nine-litre cases last year, making China the fifth-biggest wine-consuming nation worldwide - a spotlight will also be shone on China as a producer. It is the sixth-largest wine-producing country.

China's Dynasty Fine Wines, Grace Vineyard and Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine will all be represented at the show, while Taiwan's spirits group Holy Grail International is showcasing its whiskies.

Taiwan is one of the most important markets in the world for single malt whiskies, and the influence of Taiwanese consumers is one of the most important drivers of the mainland market.

For many professional visitors VINEXPO Asia-Pacific 2012 will offer an opportunity to update themselves on international trends. Although the wine market in China started out dominated by red wines of strong character, particularly from Bordeaux, an interest is emerging in lighter, easy drinking options, particularly during summer.

While red wines from all regions, but particularly Bordeaux, are strongly represented, white wines, roses and sparkling wines are more prominent than in previous years.

On the spirits side, limited-edition bottles, some with design themes geared to the Chinese market, feature prominently.

In addition to the programme of lectures, seminars and structured tastings organised under the banner of the VINEXPO Wine Academy, individual exhibitors will be holding tastings of their own.

Among those open to professional visitors will be an introduction to Loire wines from Joseph Mellot, introductions to German sparkling, dry white, red, aromatic and old riesling wines, organised by the Deutsches Weininstitut, and wine tastings from Wolf Blass and Campo Eliseo, hosted by the winemakers.