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Portuguese wine makers eye growing Chinese market

05-18-2010 09:28 BJT

Vasco da Gama, football, and Lisbon shouldn't be all you know about Portugal - you must not ignore its time-honored wine and wine culture, especially after wine producers from the European country came to China for a string of promotional activities showcasing their product.

The Portuguese Wine Trade Association debuts its first trade tasting event in Beijing on Monday, May 17, 2010. [Photo: Daye]
The Portuguese Wine Trade Association debuts its first trade tasting event in Beijing
on Monday, May 17, 2010. [Photo: Daye]

The Portuguese Wine Trade Association debuted its tasting event in Beijing on Monday at the Hilton Wangfujing Hotel, bringing over 200 wines from 18 Portuguese wine producers.

Perhaps not as widely recognized in China as French wine, Portuguese wine is quite famous in Europe, and the country has been exporting wine to the city of Rome since the Roman Empire.

"We come to Beijing very hopeful, to let Chinese consumers know our wines, because we think wines are special, wines are different, and we hope our products are pleasing to the Chinese people," Francisco Borba, president of the Portuguese Wine Trade Association, told CRI.

With its steadily expanding middle class, China's wine consumption and wine culture is gradually growing. Last year, sales of wine totaled 44 billion yuan ($6.44 billion) at retail prices, up 12 percent from 40 billion yuan in 2008, according to research by global management consultants AT Kearney.

A taste for wine needs time to mature, especially in China, a country with a prevailing liquor culture. But Borba is quite optimistic.

"I think if people taste more and more, in the near future, the appreciation of the wine and the consumption of the wine will grow, we are very hopeful on this," Borba said, "because this happens in some places all over the world, why not in China? I think China's per capita wine consumption will grow."

Last year, Portugal ranked 12th in wine exports to China, exporting 1.5 million euro's ($1.95 million) worth of wine. The export volume grew by 36 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to Borba.

Titled "A World of Difference," the tasting event captures the soul of adventure and the desire to be different that has characterized the Portuguese people for centuries.

Some 100 sommeliers and gourmands were briefed on and served more than 200 varietals from Portugal's eight major wine-producing regions. The warm Portuguese sun, fresh Atlantic winds, rainfall and very distinctive grape varietals distinguish each wine.

Francisco Fino, one of the wine producers at the event, brought over a dozen varieties to the wine tasting. His family runs a winery in central Portugal.

"Our family has been making wine for over a century. We are now the fourth generation. Due to the limited production of our family-run business, we aim at a niche market of up-market clients such as top bars and restaurants. But as the output of our newly-cultivated vineyard is increasing steadily, we want to promote our brand in China, for China is a very, very important market," he said.

The event will continue on to the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Macao.

In Shanghai, the event will partner with the ongoing Shanghai Expo by opening a small Portuguese wine exhibition booth and holding activities for Expo visitors.

More wine producers from Portugal will join the wine delegation en route.

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