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Inter Rhône to open new China office

The new Shanghai base, which will enable Inter Rhône to resume its China operations, is on track to open in “the first trimester of 2022” the French wine body tells db.

Like many other companies, Inter Rhône was forced to put a stop to its promotional operations in China last year, following the implementation of new regulations.

In order to resume its operations, which were halted in March 2021, Inter Rhône immediately started the process of opening a Representative Office in China, a now mandatory condition for any “interprofession” that wishes to carry out permanent and regular promotional programmes in the Mainland China market.

The drinks business can reveal that the French body has officially submitted its file to the Chinese authorities and that initial feedback has been extremely positive.

“It has been a relatively long and complex process, which began in July last year. We have been working with an agency to help us through the various steps. The application is now in the hands of the Chinese authorities, and we are hoping for official approval in late March or early April 2022,” Anaïs Richard, export marketing manager at Inter Rhône told db exclusively.

“When it first became clear that the requirements of the new regulation implied opening an office in Mainland China, we reported this back to our members and elected winemakers from the Rhône Valley Vineyards, as the decision was in their hands.

“They acknowledged the capital importance of the Chinese market for our region: it is a market which had been growing significantly for us up until 2017. The period of 2018-2020 was more difficult, but in 2021 we were seeing a renewed interest in our wines and the Rhône Valley Vineyards firmly believe in the growth potential of this strategic market.”

The new Inter Rhône office will be located in the city of Shanghai, and as soon as it opens Richard plans to resume all promotional programmes, including digital campaigns, training, tastings, mini-exhibitions and media relations.

As for how Rhône wines are selling in China, and the wider Asia Pacific market, export data shows a significant upward trend in recent years, with a 32% increase in value and 18% increase in volumes exported to China.

“It is one of our most important export destinations,” confirmed Richard. “The Chinese market is mostly one for red wine consumption, which fits with how our production is segmented, with a strong majority of red wines. As a French wine producing region, the Rhône Valley benefits from an inherent cultural influence in China, which is increasingly focusing on our mid-range wines, which they see as “friendly wines” that are excellent value for money.”

The news follows WSET being granted approval last month to resume its own business in China.

The wine education trust, which was forced to suspend operations in the Chinese Mainland in January 2021, spent 11 months working to meet the requirements and has now been given the green light to set up an office as an overseas non-government organisation (ONGO) to continue providing wine courses to Chinese customers.


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