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Asian push for Italian cuisine

Vinitaly will push the links between Italian food and wine at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Wine and Spirits Fair in November.

Speaking to the drinks business, Stevie Kim, general coordinator of Vinitaly International, said that the Italian lifestyle and cuisine was the best way of getting Asian consumers interested in the wines.

Italy is the partner country at the fair this year and will be present with nearly 300 producers from all over the country. This is a step up from last year where only 110 producers attended.

At present Italy represents no more than some 3% of the Asian market, considerably behind that of the French.

Kim stated that the biggest problem in promoting Italian wine is the sheer scale of production and also the divisions between each region.

“Italians are very creative but unfortunately in the wine industry they are rather behind as they are very fragmented,” she said.

“It’s a very individualistic society and we wanted to take the opportunity to bring the Italian wine industry together.”

This fragmentation is made worse by European Union funding that wineries can receive for promotion in new overseas markets. This has led to many producers believing “they can promote themselves”.

Kim continues: “My mandate is to group the producers together as much as possible to have a critical mass so there is an impact in markets. It’s a challenge but I do see great opportunity especially for a market like Hong Kong, which is the gateway to China. It isn’t easy to work in China directly so Hong Kong is a very good place, a safe place to consolidate this group.”

The success of using chefs to prepare Italian food that could be matched with the wine at last year’s event was picked out as the best way of promoting Italy in a market that loves the country’s food but knows little about its wines.

“People are so shocked at the quality of Italian wines,” Kim said. “Italian food is extremely well-known in Asia and is very popular. I wanted to promote the wines with the food. The problem with Italian wines is that they are always put in Italian restaurants,” Kim continued, “but they should be putting them in Chinese restaurants as well. This is a problem in established markets too.”

As such the pavilion will be very “interactive” with food demonstrations and wine matching.

Vinitaly has enrolled the help of the IT Chefs, Rosario Scarpato and Paolo Monti to help with the cookery.

A small consumer event to be known as the Vinitaly Wine Affair will also run the day before the fair to let the “end consumer” have a chance to experience what is to be offered to the trade.

“What we’d love to do is make people fall in love with Italian wine,” said Kim.

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