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Building on the more than three decades of Vinexpo’s success, a team of wine marketing professionals from France is offering its expertise to Asia’s import/export trade eager to satisfy consumers in Hong Kong, Japan and China with a growing thirst for wines of the world.

The folks at Vinexpo were in town last week chatting up area vintners eager to extend their sales efforts to burgeoning Asian markets.

This year, Vinexpo is hosting three trade shows in Asia — building on the success of one initially established in 1998 in Hong Kong, returning to Tokyo with Vinexpo Nippon and venturing into mainland China for the first time with a marketing thrust slated for Beijing next June.

“There’s a lot more interest in California wine in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong which is the gateway to China,” noted Xavier de Eizaguirre, chairman of Vinexpo Overseas, during his recent stopover. Familiar with Napa Valley, de Eizaguirre spent considerable time here when he was managing director of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, partner with the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Opus One winery operation.

“China is booming” in terms of both wine consumption and production, he added. “China reminds me a lot of where the United States was when Opus One was launched (in the late 1970s) ... now the U.S. is the No. 4 producer in the world and No. 1 in (wine) consumption.”

Robert Beynat, Vinexpo CEO, pointed out that in 2010 China became the fifth largest wine consumer in the world.

“Last year, China became the eighth largest wine producer in the world and production is expected to grow more than 50 percent to rank China No. 6 by 2016, placing it just behind Argentina and well ahead of Australia,” Beynat said.

“The growth of home-produced wine in China is good news for the world’s wine importers,” he added. “The more they drink their own wine, the more they will import.

“This is the story of America repeating itself. Without Mondavi and Gallo, the Americans would not drink as much wine as they do.”

Both veterans of France’s wine industry maintain vintners around the world should be exporting product if they want to be taken seriously in the business. “It’s important to have international recognition,” de Eizaguirre said.

“Asia is the place to be today,” he continued with reference to wine exports. “China is the new wild West ... Hong Kong is a hub, there is a strong economy in Singapore and Malaysia and a big market (for wine) in South Korea.”

To that end, Vinexpo is putting together three trade shows in Asia next year, as France’s Vinexpo is held every other year. Vinexpo Hong Kong is scheduled for May 27-29, Vinexpo in Beijing will follow on June 2 and 3 and Vinexpo Nippon will be in Tokyo Nov. 1-2.

These events are open only to the trade, “where vendors meet key trade,” said de Eizaguirre. “Hong Kong is the largest wine and spirits show in Asia.

“We have good California/Napa Valley attendance at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, which is the largest wine and spirits trade event in the world today. We expect more to show up in Hong Kong this year as we intend to increase the size by 50 percent. Yet Hong Kong is only a third the size of Bordeaux ... we had 50,000 visitors in Bordeaux in June and expect 18,000 in Hong Kong next year.”

“Although some predicted the opposite, we have not lost attendance at Vinexpo Bordeaux with the addition of Hong Kong,” Beynat added.

Attracting key players in wine, the Vinexpo exhibitions provide an opportunity “for the trade to meet the movers and the shakers in the industry,” he said.

Beynat also noted that the markets of the United States, Germany, China, the Russian Federation and Australia “are leading the growth charge” in terms of consumption.

The United States is forecast to increase wine consumption by 12.2 percent and hold on to the top spot in worldwide consumption by 2016, he said. “Germany will take over the second spot with a

3.5 percent growth increase and China’s impressive 40 percent growth will put them in the fifth spot. The Russian Federation will occupy seventh place with an 18 percent increase.

“This market buoyancy is an indicator that 2012 was a blip in the generally strong upward trend of wine consumption.

“By 2016, production of 3.14 billion cases will not be far off the 3.16 billion record production of 2011. With 50 percent of total wine production coming from just three countries, France, Italy and Spain — whose combined volume of production is likely to drop — the gains are likely to come from Chile, China, Germany and South Africa.”

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