In the main exhibition hall of Vinexpo 2012 Hong Kong, I spoke briefly to Michael Parr, Vice President of International Sales for Wente Family Estates, located in Livermore Valley, California.
Founded more than 125 years ago, Wente Vineyards is the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned in the United States. To this day, the winery maintains its leadership role in California wine growing, under the ownership of and management by the Fourth and Fifth Generation of the Wente family. The winery draws from approximately 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards, blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices to create an outstanding portfolio of fine wines.
The Wente clone, a budwood used to plant Chardonnay, which originated at the Wente vineyard and then spred to a number of other wineries, is now being used to make approximately 80% of all California Chardonnays.
In 2011, Wine Enthusiast magazine named Wente the American Winery of the Year.
During our interview, Michael and I discussed Wente wines and their presence in the Asian markets, as well as the feedback they had gotten at Vinexpo. He spoke about the Wente clone for Chardonnay and a bit about the local consumption trends in Hong Kong. Finally, we talked about Wine Enthusiast magazine and how it named Wente the American Winery of the Year in 2011. Our interview follows:
My name is Michael Parr, I am the Vice President of International Sales for Wente Family Estates, located in Livermore Valley, California, about an hour’s drive from San Fransisco. We’ve been exporting our brands throughout the world for, gosh, about 25 years now. We have a pretty good presence in the market and we’re here at Vinexpo Hong Kong, and I have importers coming in from South Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, everywhere… Also have the opportunity to talk to new investors.
And how has the feedback been on Wente wines during Vinexpo 2012 so far?
Excellent…excellent feedback. The brand is fairly well known throughout the Asian market. We have pretty good distribution, so people recognize the name, so that’s kind of nice. What we’re doing now is building the opportunities for our other brands that we have. Because Wente Family Estates is not only Wente Vineyards but we also have a brand called Double-Decker, another new brand called Twine, another brand that’s well-known as well. So I’m also finding homes for these brands with other international importers.
Generally, we have approximately about 5% market share. Some markets a little bit more, some a little less. In Hong Kong, I would say it’s probably more in the 6-7%, but it kind of depends on in terms of volumes of cases being shipped or in terms of values because those numbers can fluctuate too. I think we have a lot of strong potential in Hong Kong. We need to grow, we need to build our exposure, as a brand from California. And there’s a lot of restaurants opening, a lot of expats…once again, huge potential. I think we’re a little bit less than 9% market share right now.
We’ve also found that the number 1 best-selling white wine happens to be Chardonnay. So if that’s your representative wine, it might do well in the Hong Kong market.
That really helps. In terms of our flagship product, we probably could say that the Chardonnay… the Wente Chardonnay clone is well known and respected throughout the world. This year, in 2012, we celebrated 100 years of Chardonnay. They were brought over, the grapes, from France, it’s been planted, and up to 80% of all California Chardonnays are made with the Wente clone. So we are very well respected for the Chardonnays – great value for price. In Asia, red wine is king, so in terms of profile, yes it’s an important wine for us but in Asia we saw a lot more Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
Wine Enthusiast magazine did indeed award us American Wine of the Year. It was a great honor, very good for us in terms of exposure. In the United States it’s had a tremendous impact, in Canada as well. It’s a magazine that’s well-known, well represented. In Asia, as a matter of fact, they’re just starting to publish a Chinese edition of Wine Enthusiast online, so I’m in touch with the magazine because I think it’s a great opportunity for us to let especially Chinese consumers know that we are – there are several thousand wineries in the United States, and there’s only one American Wine of the Year and that’s what we were in 2011 so…. It’s a huge honor; it’s a matter of sharing that information and getting the word out to all of our importers and potential importers.
Well thank you so much and good luck with the rest of Vinexpo!