Greek producer secures $50m deal with COFCO

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Greek wine producer Boutari has secured a five-year brand promotion agreement which worth $50m with COFCO’s Wines & Spirits division to import its wines and develop the presence of Greek wine in China.

The signing ceremony was hosted in Zappeion Mansion, Athens during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s three-day visit to Greece. The visit brought about 19 trade deals worth $4bn between the two countries, according to Financial Times.

Image: Mihalis Boutaris(right), chief winemaker of the Boutaris family and Li Shiyi(left), General Manager of COFCO’s imported wine and spirits sector sign the agreement in the company of China

The deal begins this summer and will see COFCO Wines and Spirits become the sole importer of Boutari and its premium sister-brand Kir-Yianni. The deal also includes a commitment to developing the wider Greek wine category in China, and will focus initially on promoting ‘classic Greek varieties’, Boutari said in statement.

Mihalis Boutaris, Boutari chief winemaker, told DecanterChina.com that he expected the ‘fabled origin and heritage’ of Greek wines to play a key role in developing the category in China.

‘Our success so far has been driven by the rise in demand for rare wines, which are not necessarily too expensive, and extraordinary wines of exceptional quality, which do not necessarily come from a famous appellation,’ he said.

‘The Greek wines I’ve selected to import in China all meet these two criteria. Furthermore, I’ve realised that there is something about the textured taste of the Greek wine grape varieties that is particularly appealing to the Chinese palate –with or without food pairing. I believe in the long run this will be a key selling point of Greek wines in China.’

Chinese food and beverage giant COFCO is looking to grow its imported wine sector and recently signed strategic agreements with a number of prestigious global producers including Chateau Kirwan and Concha y Toro.

By signing the agreement with Boutari and its premium brand Kir-Yianni, the group aims to ‘enrich the global reach’ of the Ming Zhuang Hui (Grand Cru Collection), a high-end wine range from its online platform jiu.womai.com.

‘Currently Chinese consumers don’t know much about Greek wines,’ Li Shiyi, general manager of COFCO’s imported wine and spirits sector, told DecanterChina.com, ‘but Greece is the origin of European culture and history. Its various native grape varieties and wine regions can provide Chinese consumers with more choices and unique experiences.’

Facing ongoing government austerity measures and more intense competition in the imported wine market, Li Shiyi believes state-owned COFCO’s nationwide distribution system and lower pricing though large-scale ordering will be its key advantages.

The group also says its ‘direct-from-origin’ supply chain adds the additional benefit of authenticity to its range.

‘Mass consumption is the future of China’s imported wine market, and brand-oriented operation is the key,’ Li said.

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