New Zealand wines in demand for gifts

Last updated 05:00 02/10/2012

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Rich Chinese businessmen are buying up Kiwi wines by the 100-dozen for gifts, a New Zealand winemaker and exporter says.

Brent Marris, of Marisco Vineyards, started exporting to China late last year and believes the market could be enormous for New Zealand wineries.

It took six trips to China and about two years of spade work to secure a distributor and get his wine into the country, he said.

The VIP gift market in China was "extremely big" and many people did not realise its scale, he said.

He had come back from wine tastings with wealthy Chinese who were buying up to 100 cases at a time. Those bottles would be used as gifts for staff or business partners. In China, his Kings Series wine sold for about $100 a bottle off the shelf.

Chinese traditionally bought red wine, for gifts for business, special occasions or the many public holidays. French reds in particular were coveted for their status.

But aromatic white wines were becoming popular with women and sales were picking up.

Chinese were travelling more and getting a taste for Western products, he said.

A co-operative effort between New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and New Zealand Winegrowers, the Wine Market Development Programme, had been set up to make the most of those changes in China.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise wine programme manager Karyn Murray said about $25 million of wine was exported to China in the year to June and the programme aims to boost that to $150m a year by 2020.

Most of the wine was sold in the three biggest cities, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

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