French wine group Castel is to open sales offices in China and Taiwan later this year as it looks to develop a growing presence in Asia.
"The Chinese office, which in all likelihood will be located in Hong Kong and the opening in Taiwan, follows on from the setting up of our office in Seoul, South Korea, in 2005," a Castel spokesman told just-drinks. Castel's first Asian office was opened in Tokyo in 1998. 
Earlier this year, Castel signed an agreement with Beijing-based Poseidon Fortune International Winery. The deal gave Castel access to a network of around 30 Chinese wholesalers offering nationwide distribution coverage and has yielded sales of 300,000 bottles of French wines under the Castel brand.
The spokesman said: "Our global sales volume in China could rise to 1.5 million bottles by the end of year made up of one million bottles of the Castel brand and 500,000 bottles of Castel-owned wines." With the launch of the Castel brand in Asia, global annual sales volume is expected to total 6-7m bottles in 2006.  
While Castel's business in China is growing steadily, it remains a distance behind the group's main market in Asia, Japan. Castel sells over 4m bottles a year in Japan through a sales agreement with Suntory.
The spokesman added: "Japan is a mature, well-structured market and one of increasing consumer discernment and we have high hopes that the Chinese market will develop in this way too. The potential is certainly there for us to reach similar sales volumes in China by 2009-10 as we are now recording in Japan."