Brunello di Montalcino wine producers have welcomed a delegation of Chinese importers, as they look to increase sales in Asia.

Representatives from nine of China's largest wine importers visited Montalcino, the town at the heart of the iconic wine region, last week.

Brunello's ruling council, the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino, hopes the visit will result in new trade deals, following on from the wine's success at last year's Vinitaly China expo.

China's government expects wine consumption to reach 1bn bottles by 2011, and the country is already the largest wine importer in Asia. The value of wine imported into Asia, excluding Japan, is expected to reach US$1.5bn by 2017, according to organisers of this year's Hong Kong International Wine Fair.

Brunello exports to China remain small, at around 0.5% of total production, according to Consorzio figures.

Consorzio president Patrizio Cencioni said he expected this figure to grow and hailed last week's meeting as a sign of Brunello's global appeal. "The enthusiasm and admiration shown to us by our guests is an essential pre-condition for what we hope will develop into a solid, lasting collaboration," he said.

The Chinese visit also serves as a further sign that Brunello is shaking off this year's fraud scandal.

Police impounded stocks of Brunello 2003 from several producers earlier this year, following allegations that the wines had been bulked out with grape varieties other than Sangiovese, the only one allowed by the Consorzio.

A number of producers have since had stocks released, however. A tighter quality guarantee system has also been put in place by the Consorzio and the Italian agriculture ministry.