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China's much toasted future
- report from Vinitaly 2013, Verona

 Photo: Wine tasting at Vinitaly.
 Wine tasting at Vinitaly.
Vinitaly is the top wine fair in the country but most of the business talk at this showpiece for Italian wines was about the China market.

Over the past few years, Asian buyers recorded double-digit sales growth, and this year's edition of Vinitaly was the most China-focused ever recorded, according to observers.

Overall, the presence of international operators grew some 10% over the past year.

Media commentators and exhibitors said they're concentrating on Chinese mainland opportunities, which are widely perceived to be increasing.

For the first time, a delegation from China's Ministry of Commerce participated at the fair, including a China-focused seminar aimed at explaining the latest statistics. The seminar discussed China's import regulations as these relate to Italian companies.

Strategic connection

Vinitaly's management was keen to forge a strategic partnership with the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair next November as a venue for Italian exporters.

The General Director of Vinitaly's management company Veronafiere, Giovanni Mantovani, said the China-focused seminars at Vinitaly (including one arranged with HKTDC) were particularly useful to exporters.

Besides visits to the Hong Kong event, Vinitaly will arrange similar opportunities in the US and Russia this year.

Vinitaly 2013 had 148,000 buyers that visited the 4,255 exhibitors from 20 countries.

As far as international buyers were concerned, some 50% were from the EU, 15% from other European countries, with 20% from North America and 9% from Asia.

Italy, while still among the top wine consumer markets, has seen its consumption rate slow over a number of years.

At the same time, exports provide the only growth engine to support the wine production market.

Vinitaly also featured wine gatherings dedicated to foreign buyers. One was OperaWine, a tasting event in which the 100 top Italian wineries displayed their products to international buyers.

Photo: Saluting Chianti Classico. 
Saluting Chianti Classico. 
This focused on the US market, being arranged in co-operation with influential magazine, Wine Spectator.

The tasting event will also play a role in the six-month Milan Expo in 2015, themed on "feeding the planet, energy for life".

To add a new dimension to sales, a new e-commerce initiative called Vinitaly Wine Club was unveiled this year, a platform to support promotions of Italian winemakers throughout Europe.

The platform featured Wine Shop, an e-commerce site featuring the best Italian wines, with Wine Club mailing subscriptions and news and blogs bringing producers closer to their consumers.

Vinitaly officials said the fair had established a partnership with Chinese online B2C platform, tmall.com.

Hong Kong investor in Tuscany?

Hong Kong and Chinese mainland investors are said to be increasingly active in wine production investment in Italy, to add extra muscle to the SAR's distribution and collectors' hub.

An unnamed Hong Kong investor has reportedly purchased a mid-sized vineyard called Casa Nova, located in Tuscany.

The area is important for Chianti Classico, a red wine renowned worldwide.

The Chianti area, located around Florence, has been a preferred choice for international investors, with some of the most renowned wineries owned by American investment funds.

According to the magazine Winenews the Hong Kong entrepreneur has established strong business relationships in both Italy and France.

Vinitaly ran from 7 to 10 April, with next year's event due from 6 to 9 April.

from Alessio Pulsinelli, Milan Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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