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Spanish winemakers in China push at Hong Kong fair

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Spanish winemakers said Wednesday they are pushing to make gains in the potentially vast Chinese wine market as they showcase their wares at one of Asia's largest wine fairs in Hong Kong.

The International Wine and Spirits Fair, which partnered with Spain this year, has attracted more than 1,000 producers from around the world, as the southern Chinese city cements its position as an international wine hub.

Spain, now the third biggest exporter of bottled wine to China behind France and Australia according to Chinese customs reports, is seizing the opportunity to introduce its products to one of the world's fastest growing wine markets.

"Consumers in China now have more curiosity for different wines," Jose Maria Nieves, the export director for Spanish winemaker Bodegas Julian Chivite, told AFP.

Because of this, there is "big potential" for Spanish wines, Nieves said, adding that Chinese consumers are venturing away from their favoured French products.

Another Spanish winemaker, Vintae, said its revenue from China this year had jumped to around 400,000 euros ($540,857) from less than 50,000 euros three years ago.

"When they become more knowledgable with wine, people are more open to try different wines," said Vintae Asia-Pacific managing partner Carlos Garcia Mangado.

French winemakers, however, say they are not worried about being crowded out.

"The most important thing for us is to keep the quality," said Jean-Francois Chabod, export sales director for Les Vignobles Foncalieu.

"We have to respect and go on with the quality we offer because we have a long-term vision for the Chinese market."

Hong Kong has become a gateway to the booming wine market in mainland China, which is expected to be the world's sixth largest wine consumer by 2014, according to leading global wine and spirits promoter Vinexpo.

The city overtook New York to become the world's biggest wine auction hub last year, thanks in large part to the expansion of personal wealth in China and the abolition of duties on wine imports in 2008.

The sixth International Wine and Spirits Fair runs from Thursday to Saturday.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131106/spanish-winemakers-china-push-at-hong-kong-fair