FRANCE/CHINA: Sud de France wine exports to China leap - Vinisud

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Exports of wines bearing the Sud de France label to China have risen seven-fold in volume in the past five years, new figures show.

Those wines able to use the label are in France's Languedoc Rousillon region, which, since 2009, has seen China overtake Japan as its biggest export market in Asia by volume. Languedoc is France's biggest wine region by volume produced.

Bordeaux's chateaux, and more recently Burgundy, have dominated headlines on French wine sales in China. But, official figures released at this week's Vinisud show in Montpellier demonstrate that other regions of France are also benefiting from China's growing thirst for wine.

In 2010, China imported 253,000 hectolitres of Sud de France-branded wine, equivalent to 34m bottles. That is a seven-fold rise on 2006, when the Sud de France umbrella brand was first introduced.

The average ex-cellar price per litre of Sud de France wines sent to China has risen by 85% in five years, to EUR2.4 (US$3.2). The Sud de France team, which is government-backed and also promotes local foods, has worked with French retailer Carrefour to expand distribution in China. It has also set up a Chinese website.

A significant quantity of wine shipped is bottled, rather than bulk, according to the head winemaker at Les Vignobles Foncalieu, Delphine Glangetas. Foncalieu recently opened an office in Shanghai.

"We've found that China is not only for entry level wines," she told journalists at Vinisud this week. She said that quality-assured AOP wines and aged wines are popular. "We don't have a lot of aged barrels right now, but in the future that could be quite interesting for us."

However, she added that the Chinese palate is different from some more established wine markets. Wineries typically add extra sugar and use old-fashioned labels to appeal to Chinese tastes.

Despite China's potential, there is some concern within the wine trade about whether consumers are drinking the wine or using bottles for ornamental value. Several exhibitors at Vinisud agreed with comments made to just-drinks last month by Wine Australia's head of market development, James Gosper. "We need to better understand where this wine is going," he said of China. 

Sectors: Wine

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