Sichel is attending Prowein 2014

Sichel is attending Prowein 2014

Wine merchant Maison Sichel is to up its focus on China after a record year in the country.

The Bordeaux negociant, which last year grew its sales in China by 30%, is to recruit extra staff to its three-strong team in the country before the end of the year, Sichel's export director, Charles Sichel, told just-drinks at ProWein 2014 this week. Sichel said the success was a result of spening the last decade in the market building strong distribution ties.

“China is where our significant growth is going to come from over the next 15 to 20 years,” Sichel said. “The blocks we are building are solid. All the work we have put in has paid off.”

The sales increase, Sichel's highest in the country, came amid concern that anti-gifting measures were damaging wine sales in China. Treasury Wine Estates partly blamed the measures for a recent profit warning, while domestic wine sales in China shrank for the first time in over a decade last year, according to the International Wine and Spirits Record.

Sichel said his company targets a more “traditional” distribution system in China of shop sales, but warned that much of Sichel's sales in the country are through a “grey” network. 

He said: “A massive part of the distribution in China is grey - such as private networks, wine clubs and banqueting. You can't see it, you can't hear it. You're shipping a lot of wine to China and you're not quite sure who's drinking it or where it's going. But, that's the nature of the beast.”