Looking back on Vinexpo 2015

By

Demei's View - Wine Communication from a Chinese Winemaker

Last Thursday, 18 June, the curtain came down on Vinexpo 2015, after five days in which 2,400 exhibitors from 45 countries all over the world set up their stands to talk to the international wine trade. The exhibition area was 3% bigger than two years ago and more than 48,000 professionals from 150 countries visited the show, including French President François Hollande.

Chinese wine tasting organised by CEEV and CADA at Vinexpo 2015
Image: Chinese wine tasting organised by CEEV and CADA © LI Demei

The USA has become the biggest wine consuming country in the world, and the wine consumption in China is also growing continuously. According to the current situation, without any serious problems, China, with the large population it has, will sooner or later become an even bigger wine market than America.

We just cannot tell when exactly it will be. The conference ‘2025: US or China?’ organised by INSSEC and Wine Intelligence on the fourth day of the Vinexpo (17 June), discussed a very timely topic. Unfortunately, I missed it due to a Chinese wine tasting I was hosting at the same time. But, this is an attractive topic, especially for the European wine producers who are facing the pressure of over-production.

The most important highlight of this year’s Vinexpo was the focus on China. Walking into the exhibition hall, you could see advertisements in Chinese everywhere, many stands having signs saying ‘we speak Chinese’. This reminded me the duty free shops I have been to in the Charles de Gaulle Airport 10 years ago. The volume of imported wine to China has seen a sustainable growth in the past few years, even though the production of domestic wines has dropped in the last two years.

So it is perfectly logical and reasonable that the exhibitors at Vinexpo took the Chinese visitors seriously – not to mention that China has become the biggest export destination for Bordeaux wines.

'We speak Chinese' signage at Vinexpo 2015
Image:

Among the events regarding the focus on China, a few tastings of Chinese wines captured full attention. On 15 June, RVF China organised a tasting of award-winning wines from its Chinese wine competition in the past few years, featuring 17 wines (eight whites and nine reds) from major Chinese wine regions. Over 100 visitors attended the tutored tasting (some latecomers listened to the introduction and comments by the host with great interests even though they did not have a seat to taste the wines). Currently there are a lot of different wine competitions in China. Many Chinese wine producers told me their confusion about these competitions: when they received their certificate of the award, the only thing they can do was to tell their consumers ‘we won another medal’, but the consumers didn’t know how important the award was. The organisers of these wine competitions should promote their work to raise their profile in the market. Same as RVF, Decanter as a neutral wine media also organises a series of tasting events to promote the award-winning wines from its Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) and Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA), rather than just releases the result and give out the award certificates. This type of competition is gaining more and more attention among the Chinese wine producers.

On the morning of 17 June, CEEV and CADA jointly organised a tasting of Chinese wines which attracted widespread attention as well. CEEV and CADA brought 17 wines with different styles from eight Chinese producers, and both organisations selected two experts to co-host the tasting. This is a part of the deal between the two parties about CEEV providing support to the development and enhancement of the Chinese wine industry after the dispute of the anti-dumping tax two years ago.

There were another two tastings of Chinese wine in Bordeaux on the 18 and 19 June. This was the first time for the Chinese wine industry to hold such large-scale overseas promotional event.

consumers at the Vinexpo Chinese wine tasting organised by CEEV and CADA
Image: consumers at the Vinexpo Chinese wine tasting
organised by CEEV and CADA © LI Demei

The focus on China wasn’t just about wine tastings. There was an Asian restaurant in the catering area of the show – to my surprise, the manager of the restaurant used to run a high-end restaurant in Beijing, and we had attended the same wine tasting back in China. I guess it may sound a bit parochial to discuss about the ‘Conception of China’ whilst everyone is talking about globalisation. Even the officials from CEEV have repeatedly emphasised that helping the domestic Chinese wine producing companies to raise the quality of their products could increase the wine consumption, and will eventually lead to more consumption of EU wines by the Chinese wine drinkers.

There is no doubt that the global wine industry is facing the pressure of a weak growth of consumption, so people working in this section care a lot about the changes that are happening in the trade, including in the wine fairs. Comment about Vinexpo itself was therefore a popular topic during the fair.

It was very easy to feel the strong influence from the French wine industry to this Bordeaux wine fair, especially the influence from Bordeaux. The local chateaux and merchants took advantage of their location and held a series of high standard theme activities for invited guests only. This situation let down some exhibitors who travelled a long way to attend the show; because of this, some of them missed the ProWein in Düsseldorf.

Another comment I heard quite a lot was the timing of the fair: the temperature in June is high enough to make the exhibitors and visitors sweat and feel uncomfortable. More importantly, the buyers normally have their purchasing plan ready earlier, so attending a wine fair in June is more like an activity to visit existing clients or meet new clients.

Regardless, wine fair is an important way of promoting the products. Organising fairs close to winemaking regions is easier to attract more exhibitors, and this is the mode of most of the wine fairs. However, with the development of the international wine trade, winemaking regions are separated with wine consuming areas, striving to develop wine fairs that are close to wine consuming market might be more realistic.

Translated by Nina Fan Feng / 冯帆

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