Italy's participation at this year's Wine and Spirits Fair reflects the full extent of its wine culture. Its pavilion will feature wineries, wine tourism, wine education, wine logistics and gastronomy, reflecting the Italian view that food and wine should not be separated. Spirits are also strongly represented, including grappa, an increasingly popular digestif now available in barrel-aged form, and in its traditional unaged clear expression. 'The Italian Trade Commission has taken the fair as a great platform for Italian producers to meet more local and Asian customers,' says Italian trade commissioner Romano Baruzzi. 'In this edition, we have 117 Italian producers attending, with a 270 per cent increase in pavilion size compared with last year.' Baruzzi points out that Italy is one of the biggest wine producers in the world, producing 44.5 million hectolitres of wine last year and accounting for about 17 per cent of world production and 30 per cent of European Union production. Italy has 486 wines with denomination of origin, of which 48 are denomination of controlled and guaranteed origin, and 320 denomination of controlled origin. Another 118 have 'typical geographic indications' status, meaning they are of higher quality than table wine. Not surprisingly, food and wine matching plays an important role in Italy's strategy to build awareness of its wines in Hong Kong and on the mainland. As an introduction to the idea of pairing Italian wine and Chinese cuisine, the Italian Trade Commission and the Marche region have organised a pairing lunch on Saturday with wine expert Lau Chi-sun, Baruzzi says. Interest in Italian wine is growing rapidly in Hong Kong. Italy exported US$10.2 million-worth of red wine and US$1.6 million of white wine to the city in the first eight months of this year, recording surges of 58 per cent and 34 per cent respectively. 'The city can act as a key point of passage between producer countries such as Italy and the mainland, which offers a potentially huge market. Compared with the last few years, the number of bottles of wine that Italy has exported to China in 2010 has increased by 240 per cent,' Baruzzi says.