The wine world turned up in force for the recently concluded Vinexpo Asia-Pacific. This show is the Asian edition of one of the world’s largest wine exhibitions. The venue was Hong Kong – now one of the most important centres for the wine trade. Over 800 exhibitors from wine producing countries and regions were at the show to present themselves to the over 10,000 trade visitors from the Asia-Pacific region.
Asia’s, especially China’s, potential as a wine market is seen as immense. The upbeat spirit of trying to capture a piece of this pie was unmistakable. Facing sluggish economic growth in their traditional markets, international wine producers have turned their eyes to the Asia-Pacific region in earnest. This interest extends beyond China to India as well – more on that later.
Trade visitors of all stripes attended the show: wine-buyers, importers, consultants, sommeliers, and journalists. The exhibition had something to offer for everyone.
From the perspective of tasting wine, three days proved to be an inadequate amount of time! France, particularly Bordeaux, had a strong presence and made it felt through special events such as Grand Cru and Cru Bourgeois tastings. Germany and California and several other regions also hosted excellent tutored tasting events. Germany especially did an excellent job of presenting their entire range – including some hard to obtain ‘silver’ Rieslings and Eiswein’s older than 25-30 years! With sessions that filled the day, and winemakers at stalls eager to explain their winemaking techniques and philosophies – the event was a gift for anyone seeking to understand wine from the eyes of a winemaker.
The event was another confirmation of what wine experts have been saying for a few years now: more quality wine is available at each price point now than ever before in history. For importers and distributors, opportunities abound. I tasted wine at every price point that I would love to see in India (and some wine that I prefer not to taste or drink again!). The challenge is for the professional wine buyer – find the balance between price and quality. This means spending time evaluating both price and quality. This of course, is a time consuming and involved process – especially if you consider the variety of wine on offer. Unfortunately, too many wine buyers representing importers and distributors seemed focussed only on price – trying to obtain the cheapest wine they could. There is nothing wrong with buying the cheapest wine – provided the quality is acceptable. There was plenty of cheap wine of good quality, and plenty of premium wine at good values. Let’s hope we will see more of both in India over the coming years.
Interest in the Indian market is clearly strong and rising. Almost every wine producer that I spoke to is interested in the Indian market. Some of them have appointed importers or distributors here already; most others are looking and waiting. Each has an opinion on the distribution, bureaucracy and taxes. Though the Indian bureaucracy is well-known, plenty of wine producers take it in their stride. As one of them said to me: “we are winemakers and we know how to take a long term view as good wine is not made overnight”. For Indian importers, the hurdle to having a good portfolio of wines is on the selling side: can they manage to sell what they buy? Another challenge is selection of wines for their import portfolio. Availability of willing suppliers is simply not an issue. Selecting wisely from what’s available is.