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Kiwi wine’s excellent name gives it the edge in China

Oct 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

dave and destina1

NEW GROWTH: Destina and Dave Munro check spring growth at Ohau Vineyards.

A FRUITY little white from a small vineyard in Horowhenua will be the latest New Zealand wine to tempt Chinese taste buds later this year.

A Chinese businessman liked the wine so much, he has snapped up almost all of Ohau Vineyards‘ annual production of sauvignon blanc to sell in mainland China.

It is a unique opportunity for the vineyard which showed at its first Asian food and wine fairs only this year, says Ohau Vineyards executive director Dave Munro.

“We found out that ‘hau’ translates as ‘excellent’ in Mandarin, so it explained why our representative became known as the ‘oh excellent wine magnate from New Zealand’,” he says.

The Hong Kong based distributor is setting up Ohau Wines (Shenzhen) Co Ltd, in partnership with Ohau Vineyards, to capitalise on the name’s “excellent” appeal.

From next month, the new company will operate out of Guangzhou, a city of 20 million people, and there are plans to expand city by city over the next five years.

Peter Healy, business development manager (Asia) for Ohau Vineyards, says although China is recognised as the world’s fastest-growing wine market, wine is still regarded as a status symbol within the emerging middle-class.

ohau wine bottles1

AWARD-WINNING: Ohau Gravels is the signature label for the vineyard.

“The Asians are intrigued that there’s a new wine region in New Zealand with a unique taste, and are saying ‘thank God, not another Marlborough’,” he says.

Mr Munro says they were told it would be difficult to sell white wines in a market where red dominates, but women are helping drive a niche market for white, preferring the lighter, subtler flavours.

“I don’t know whether it’s an urban myth, but it’s been repeated to me quite regularly…that the Chinese have been known to spend $1000 on a bottle of wine and mix it with Pepsi,” he says.

A bespoke entry point wine will be developed to complement the existing wines sold under the Ohau brand.

Ohau River – yet to be unveiled – will have a new-look label, designed to appeal to the local market.

Mr Munro says tracing the source of the wine is incredibly important in China, where counterfeit wines are a big problem, so having that direct link to the Ohau vineyard where the grapes are grown will be a huge advantage.

The vineyard, which was established just four years ago and won its first national awards last year, is having to expand rapidly to keep up with demand.

In 2009, they produced 3500 cases of wine, but are aiming for 45,000 in five year’s time, most of it exported to Asia.

The Chinese distributor is also interested in Kapiti olives and cheeses, which could see the coast positioned as a region of fine foods within the Asian market.

Ohau Vineyards exports its Ohau Gravels, Wovenstone and Magenta labels to Australia and Vietnam, and has won three silver medals for its sauvignon blanc and a gold for the pinot gris in the 2009 Air New Zealand and Romeo Bragato wine awards.

Awards won:

Silver medal: Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2009 (Wovenstone Sauvignan Blanc 2009)

Silver medal: Romeo Bragato Wine Awards 2009(Wovenstone Sauvignan Blanc 2009)

Silver medal: NZ International Wine Show 2009 (Ohau Gravels Sauvignan Blanc 2009)

Trophy and Gold medal: Romeo Bragato Wine Awards 2009 (Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris 2009)

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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