Wine drinkers in China and the US will lap up what Hawke's Bay has to offer provided local vintners get their marketing right.

That is the message from two top international wine judges hired by Air New Zealand to help tweak the airline's wine selection process so it appeals to their home markets.

California-based Linda Murphy and Fongyee Walker, from Beijing, shared their insights on the US and China markets with local producers at a Hawke's Bay Winegrowers presentation, during a trip to the region this week.

Ms Murphy is the co-author, with Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, of American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States.


She is contributing editor to Food and Wine magazine's Wine Guide and is a regular contributor to other leading wine publications, including Decanter and WineReviewOnline.

As well as judging wine internationally and writing for a number of Chinese magazines, Ms Walker is the only person in mainland China to have passed the theory and practical components of the demanding Master of Wine qualification.

Her wine education and consultancy business, Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting, has previously worked with Hawke's Bay Winegrowers on its China marketing efforts.

Ms Walker said a key strength for Hawke's Bay was its focus on producing the Bordeaux-style red wines that were popular with Chinese drinkers.

Ms Murphy said Hawke's Bay's acclaimed syrahs were the region's "most remarkable" wines, but selling them successfully in the US required a face-to-face effort because of strong competition from a raft of US-produced syrah and Australian shiraz.

"It doesn't matter how good the wine is, there are so many syrahs [on sale in the US] and there are so many different styles that consumers cross their eyes and don't know what to buy.

"So for Gimblett Gravels syrah from Hawke's Bay to be embraced, it takes some real hand-selling in the US," she said.

Air New Zealand chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod said the airline's appointment of the pair, to consult on the wines it served in-flight, was part of its "commitment to delivering a world class and uniquely Kiwi customer experience in all markets it serves".

"Linda and Fongyee will bring an intimate knowledge of which style of New Zealand wines will bring the most enjoyment to customers originating in their respective parts of the world," he said.