March has seen Australian wineries polishing glasses and putting on their best pours at Europe’s biggest* wine-trade fair ProWein in Düsseldorf, Germany and near simultaneously at China’s pre-eminent food and wine fair in Chengdu.
Australia’s turnout at International Expo City in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan in southwest China, was not only twice the size of last year’s with over 50 exhibitors and 80 brands, but also the largest of all national pavilions.
In Düsseldorf, 83 producers on the Wine Australia stand poured more than 500 wines from every major region, wooing the trade with tasting events across 4 days, a wine bar, ample meeting space and a barista.
Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said ProWein was about doing business and making connections in addition to showcasing wine. Incorporating a barista on the stand was not only a nod to Australia’s sophisticated coffee culture (winemakers always know where to get the best coffee, perhaps because it’s all about the nose and palate) but also a means of encouraging people to stay and talk. Wine Australia’s barista served over 1500 Australian-style quality coffees during the 3-day fair.
Australia’s ProWein stand, the largest to date, featured tutored tastings in an education area, a wine bar and a massively-oversubscribed Margaret River master class in the ProWein Forum. Showing off the diversity of Australian wine, the events covered topics including cool climate regions, old vines, organic and biodynamic wines and alternative varieties.
Jonathan O’Neill, Regional Export Manager for Angove Family Winemakers, said this year’s ProWein was extremely busy and he was delighted with the response from international buyers.
‘The wave of optimism on the stand was infectious and the stand was buzzing with producers securing new business and buyers finding new Australian brands. Our meeting book was full before the show started and we also had several walk-up meetings we weren’t expecting.
‘We were amazed by the number of inquiries from Eastern Europe and Russia, where Australian wine still has limited distribution and presence, and it also looks like Angove Family Winemakers will re-enter the German market.’
Gemtree’s Managing Director Mike Brown attended both ProWein and Chengdu Food and Drinks Fair within the week and remarked at the considerable scale of both Wine Australia events.
‘The fairs are quite literally worlds apart and the audiences are vastly different but the energy at both events is extraordinary.’
Wine Australia’s Regional General Manager for North Asia David Lucas said that the nation’s record-breaking presence at one of China’s most important wine fairs underlined the importance attached to a market now accounting for nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s total wine exports.’
Underpinning this staggering growth, he also noted the growing demand for premium Australian wines ‘reflects the growing maturity and appreciation for wine in the surging Chinese market’.
Mr Lucas further noted that the backing from the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package was crucial to maintaining this momentum, bringing China’s wine trade, media and consumers ‘a better understanding of the diversity and unique charm of Australian wines.
Paul Squires, owner and director of Buller Wine from Rutherglen, said their business had made a strategic decision to participate in Wine Australia events when it entered the China market.
‘Chengdu has been very interesting in that we obtained lots of leads from the trade show in the last few days, people were particularly interested in our premium wines. We’ve been very fortunate to see these leads convert already, which is a great result.’
Australia’s best-known regions were showcased at the Chengdu trade fair, from the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Coonawarra to Margaret River, Hunter Valley and Yarra Valley.
Lesser-known regions in the market including Goulburn Valley, Rutherglen, Murray Land, Nagambie Lakes, Strathbogie Ranges, Greater Southern, Geographe, Henty, Mount Benson, Grampians, Frankland River and Langhorne Creek also showcased both well-known and alternative varieties.
Master classes, tastings and seminars presented the various established and newer production areas to explain the diversity and vibrancy of Australia’s wine sector.
One of the key seminars explored the ever-changing face of Chinese e-commerce, staged in cooperation with e-commerce giant Alibaba to further give insight into the evolution of new retail.
Master classes included Australian Chardonnay: Classical Evolution, Exquisite Pinot Noir: the Darling of Australian Wine, Shiraz: The Legend of Australia, Foundations of Australian Wine, Durif: Australia’s best unknown red wine, Barossa: collectable wines of distinction, and Australian Cabernet and blends.
In addition to the fair,15 exhibitors also participated in the Wine and Spirits Exhibition at the Shangri-La Hotel, a satellite event allowing wineries to speak directly to key trade.