Italian vineyards see a glass that’s half full in China

Imported wines from Europe shown in Nanjing (International) Wine and Spirits Exhibition in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, May 10, 2014. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

Italy is looking to topple France as China’s top wine exporter, a senior Italian official in Chengdu said on Wednesday.

French wine continues to dominate the Chinese market, and wines from Chile and Australia enjoy tariff reductions. But Sergio Maffettone, the Italian consul-general in Chongqing and former news counselor of the Italian Embassy in China, insists there is “huge space for improvement” for Italian wine to gain market share.

Maffettone said the Italian government is supporting Italian companies and producers “by all means” possible in their efforts to export more to China.

Wine from the country’s main exporting region, the Apennine Peninsula, currently occupies around 7 percent share of all imported wines in China. Italy trails France, Australia, Chile and Spain as the fifth-biggest exporter.

Chilean wine was granted tariff exemption from the start of this year, and Australian wine will be given the same advantage over the coming three years, thanks to recently signed free trade agreements with China.

Maffettone is confident, however, that Italian wine can take the number one spot, as Chinese drinking habits shift away from buying expensive wines to cheaper, mass-produced labels, such as those from his country, which are still considered quality nonetheless.

“Some Chinese have been choosing the most expensive ones to be sure of the quality, but once the consumers get to know the taste (of Italian wine), they find a new world opens,” Maffettone said.

A recent report has already observed a shift in wine tastes in China. The report was released by the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, which is located in the Yangling Demonstration Zone of Agricultural Hi-tech Industries, 80 kilometers from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province.

It showed the Chinese market consumed 1.94 billion bottles of wine last year, a 5.6 percent increase from 2013-but it also said that the market has entered an era when value for money has become more important, and that suits mass-produced varieties.

“Italian wine was less known to the United States 30 years ago, but now its quality has won it the largest share in the world’s biggest consumer market,” said Maffettone.

Source: By WANG HUAZHONG (China Daily)Updated: 2015-03-26 11:01

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