The following is an editorial written by Marie Von Ahm and appeared in the Entaste Wine Monitor Report from June 2012.
Having once passed the first great obstacle of finding an importer in HK, many producers find themselves in the negative situation of not selling as much as expected. There might be several reasons for this and I will not go deep into this as they will unquestionable vary for each producer-importer relationship. Instead I will however with a few general tips I have found efficient as to how to increase your sales and visibility on the market.
1: Spend some extra time with your importer. This might sound vague, but my experience is that the more attention you pay to your importer the more attention he will give to your wines. Many HK importers highly value getting to know you on a more personal level so dedicate time to have dinners and lunches with them, let them take you around HK if they offer it and share some personal details about yourself with them. The more “friends” you can become with them the more they will do for your wines generally. This might seem difficult and very different to many, especially European people, as our code of conduct for business relationships is so very different from the Chinese. However; this small investment of time, attention and energy does usually pay off well and for the long term.
2: Remember to send all reviews, rewards and publicity your wines receive. Most HK importers use these extensively for the marketing of your wines. Even a local European price or medal can result useful so send all you get! Tasting notes are equally important. Written by estate itself or taken from a journalist’s review of your wines. Good picture material is always well received too. Photos of vineyards, grape varieties, the cellar and the people behind the wine all help a lot in creating a better picture and understanding there at the “other end” of the world. Many consumers will not have had the chance to visit vineyards and cellars and showing them pictures of yours, creates a much better understanding and also adds a more personal touch to the wine, eventually creating extra value for the consumer.
3: If you find that only a few out of many of your wines sell well in HK here are a few things to consider. First of all; don’t just sit back and accept the fact! Usually there are reasons and solutions to this. Speak with your importer and be open about the problem. Is it a question of taste, of the name being difficult to remember and pronounce or the label being less attractive to a Chinese customer visually? Get input from both your importer and any other local HK person you might now, be it a sommelier, journalist or just a friend. Small changes can create results here. Of course the taste of a given wine cannot and should not be changed, but due to the great diversity of Chinese cuisine and taste there will be better matches than other. If your importer works in mainland China find our what regions favour what tastes and match your wine with this. If you only work on the HK market match different wines to different restaurants.
Always keep in mind the basics of the Chinese regional cuisine. The most influential are known as the “Eight Cuisines”: Shandong Cuisine, Guangdong Cuisine, Sichuan Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine and Anhui Cuisine . The different factors that determine each cuisine are complex and include climate, history, economy and general life styles. These cuisines are often so different from each other that it seems almost unbelievable that they are geographical neighbours. Do a bit of research and you will find that there is a region and thereby restaurants for all your wines and you will find restaurants of all these different cuisines in HK!
Marie Von Ahm was born in Denmark now residing in Spain. Worked both as buyer for importers and export manger for producers, she is now running her own wine consultancy offering both export advise to Europe’s top producers and import advise to wine companies across the world. She sources and selects wines for collectors and investors in Scandinavia, USA and Asia and works as consultant on the global wine trade for the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). She is the first Dane and woman to become member of the prestigious tasting committee Le Grand Jury Européen.