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Feature: Major Milan fair is focusing on China among key markets for Italian wine

www.xinhuanet.com by 08/10/2020  

 Milano Wine Week, one of Europe's top wine fairs, is focusing this year's edition on four main export markets, including China.

The fair, which got underway last Saturday and will run through Sunday, is focusing this year on China, plus Canada, Russia, and the United States.

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"These are four of the fundamental export markets for Italian winemakers outside of Europe," Federico Gordini, president of the Milano Wine Week fair, told Xinhua. "These countries are where much of the growth will come from over the coming years."

As a big country with rich cultural and culinary traditions, China has long been seen as a market with enormous potential for producers of high-quality wines. In recent years, most analysts agree, China has begun to develop that massive potential.

"Ten years ago most consumers in China didn't even know Italy was a major wine producer," Francesca Filippone, managing director of L3, a business development consultancy specializing in the food and wine sectors, said in an interview.

"But in the last few years, the best-known wines like Barolo and Brunello have developed a following, and more recently, interest is growing for top wines in lesser-known parts of the country."

Filippone said there were several trends behind the growing strength of Italian winemakers in China, ranging from the number of Chinese tourists who took gastronomic tours in Italy before the coronavirus pandemic, to "roadshows" aimed at promoting Italian wines among distributors in China.

It is also noteworthy that the first Italian-Chinese wine dictionary, the Dizionario dei Vini e Vitigni D'Italia (The Dictionary of Italian Wines and Vines), was released last year and has helped to demystify Italy's complex wine traditions, laws, and grape varieties.

According to NH Global Partners, an international consultancy that focuses on Asian markets, France exported the most wine to China last year, topping 1 billion U.S. dollars, followed by Australia at 723 million U.S. dollars, Chile at 270 million U.S. dollars, with Italy in fourth with 168 million in wine sales.

"Italy has been trying to gain a stronger foothold in China for several years and with the tariffs in the United States and confusion in Europe in the wake of Brexit, the Chinese market has become even more important," Filippone said.

Gordini said events like the Milano Wine Week can help Italian winemakers achieve that goal. He noted that the event is managing to expand its reach despite travel restrictions and other problems related to the global coronavirus outbreak.

Final numbers won't be known until after the fair closes on Sunday, but Gordini said he expects the fair to attract around 100,000 live visitors over nine days. That number is far less than the estimated 300,000 attendees in 2019. But because of coronavirus restrictions, he said thousands of new participants have been tuning in online.

Among the innovations is a special kind of wine tasting where participants gather in certain cities where wines have been shipped, and the tasting is guided by someone at the fair in Milan.

"We worked to come up with innovative ways to get the word out all over the world," Gordini said. "We'll use some of these new ideas even after the pandemic goes away." Enditem