Italy bids to close gap in wine exports to China

Italy is bidding to close the gap with its competitors in wine exports to China, said organisers of a major wine fair that opened on Sunday with a Chinese commerce ministry delegation in attendance.

The Vinitaly fair in Verona in northern Italy is "a connecting bridge between Italian wine producers and the Asian market, which is close to becoming the biggest consumer of wine in the world," organisers said in a statement.

Italy is only fifth among countries exporting wine to China with a market share of 6.2 percent and "it needs to close the gap", the statement said.

Italian wine sales to China amounted to 102.4 million euros ($132.3 million) in 2012 and China is to become the world's top consumer in 2015, it said.

Organisers of the fair said major Chinese online wine distributors would be taking part in the Verona event, which wraps up on Wednesday.

The fair has also partnered with the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair which takes place in November and is Asia's biggest wine event.

The Verona fair brings together 4,200 exhibitors from 23 countries and buyers from 110 countries.

"Italy is the world's biggest wine exporter. Forty percent of the revenue for the wine industry is generated by exports, compared to a European average of 18 percent," said Ettore Riello, head of Veronafiere.

The Vinitaly fair is considered the biggest industry event in the world.