China is becoming an increasingly important market for New Zealand wine and a group of local firms is hoping to boost sales further by making an appearance this week at one of the Asian superpower's biggest international trade shows, the Chengdu Wine Fair.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is running a pavilion at the event, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, that will house representatives of eight Kiwi wineries including Babich Wines, Giesen Wines, Ngatarawa, Invivo Wines, Trinity Hill and Villa Maria.
Invivo co-founder Tim Lightbourne, who will attend the show with his Chinese distributor, said the Chengdu fair received around 150,000 visitors. To put that in perspective, Germany's ProWein - one of Europe's biggest wine shows - had 40,000 attendees last year, Lightbourne said.
He said China was becoming one of Invivo's most important markets and the company was exporting full shipping containers of wine - containing around 13,000 bottles each - to the country.
"It's going to be a pretty exciting show," Lightbourne said. "It's the first time we've done a show in China."
The value of New Zealand wine exports to China grew from just $209,000 in 2003 to $25.2 million in 2012, according to NZ Winegrowers figures.
Lightbourne said one of the main challenges in China was enticing Chinese consumers away from French red wines, which made up the bulk of wine imports to the country.
It was also a highly fragmented market, with Invivo having a single distributor who appointed around 50 sales agents across China, Lightbourne said. "Generally you don't see your wine in retail chain wine stores and [the market] is not overseen by five to 10 key buyers operating large chains like you would see in Australia or the UK.
"The channels to consumers are varied and there is a lot of gift giving, which often means you need to single package your wine in wooden boxes."
Babich Wines brand marketing manager John Lang said the Henderson-based firm had only been selling wine in China for seven years but the country had become the winery's third biggest market, behind Australia and the United States.
The company's general manager, David Babich, will travel to Chengdu for the show, Lang said.
He said Babich had recently employed a China sales manager, based in Shanghai. "He's in charge of being the liaison with several distributors we're working with."
Wine exports to China
*$25.2 million in 2012, up from $209,000 in 2003.
*$15.9 million of red, $9.2 million of white and $111,000 of sparkling wine.
*2.2 million litres.