The 86th China Food, Wine & Spirits Trade Fair, which opened its doors in Chengdu on 23 March 2012, is on course to receive 150,000 visitors during the three-day show, the organisers report.
With over 3,000 exhibitors, including 20 trade associations from various countries around the globe, Chengdu has fast grown its reputation as a place to do business for domestic wholesalers and distributors of wine.
The Wine Fair, which evolved out of the previously state run exhibition for domestic alcohol and tobacco, has fast grown its imported wine element, and now stands as one of the biggest showcases for wine in China. The vast wine and spirit pavilion is typically packed with potential buyers each day.
Chengdu also reveals both the potential and challenges inherent for producers engaging in business in China. Visitors to this year’s Fair have been greeted by the usual examples of copycats and counterfeits, including a sea of “Lafite” and other labels and merchandising aping high end Bordeaux wines.
This is a market where an empty (and thus refillable) bottle of Lafite can sell for US$300 and estimates in the Chinese media suggests that the number of bottles sold as “Lafite” in China is many times the estate’s entire production.
On the up side, the Chinese government is increasingly aware of the scale of the problem and has indicated it will clamp down, with some evidence that it is beginning to do so.
“We believe the government will move to raise minimum standards for wine import and distribution and regulate the industry more because of the fake and counterfeit problem for imported wines,” said Don St Pierre of leading importer ASC Fine Wine, speaking recently to the drinks business.
Back among the crowds descending on Chengdu, where 5,500 taxis are on standby to ferry the attendees, what the Fair does reveal is the scale and speed of the growth of the wine market in China and also the enthusiasm with which importers and distributors are looking to add imported wines to their portfolios.
To put the numbers into perspective, Vinexpo 2011 in Bordeaux received close on 50,000 visitors. Admittedly, at Chengdu, wine is only one element of the Fair. But in tandem with China’s thirst for wine this element fast continues to grow.