Reviews & Articles
China Australia Business – China's rapidly growing taste for wine, and where Hewitson fits in08-Sep-2009
CHINA'S RAPIDLY GROWING TASTE FOR WINE HAS INCREASED DEMAND FOR HIGH-QUALITY IMPORTS. AND WHILE EUROPEAN WINES STILL TRADE ON PRESTIGE, AUSTRALIAN WINE PRODUCERS LIKE DEAN HEWITSON ARE STEADILY BUILDING A STRONG REPUTATION FOR QUALITY AND VALUE.
Hewitson Wines' founder and chief winemaker Dean Hewitson has a vision: to see Australian wines attain their rightful place on the tables of wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs across China. With the assistance of a high-quality product. a market-savvy distributor and, of course, a passion for the Industry, this dream is set to become a reality in the not-too-distant future.
Hewitson founded his company in 1998 with the aim of producing uniquely expressive wines from the vineyards of South Australia's premium winemaking regions. Many of the Barossa Valley vines still harvested today were originally planted in the mid 1800s, making them the oldest vines of their type on earth and more closely linked to the original vines of Europe than anywhere else in the world.
Hewitson's philosophy of combining Old-World winemaking techniques with New-World knowledge and understanding has propelled the label into the top echelon of Australian wineries. His wines are praised for their flavour, balance and complexity, and are stocked in the finest hotels, restaurants and cellars around the world.
In the four years that Hewitson Wines has occupied the Chinese market, Dean Hewitson has witnessed a steadily growing interest in Australian wines. Two years ago, he engaged the Wine Republic as exclusive distributor for mainland China to establish Hewitson Wines as a major industry player.
'The Chinese have a unique business culture and it is important to understand this and work within their parameters; he explains, "As such, it is vital that care is taken to choose a distributor who understands the product and target market, and can deal effectively with customers. In China, the ultimate success or failure is irrelevant - at the moment we are simply concerned with getting off the ground, and so securing the right distributor is critical to this outcome,"
'Dean's viewpoint is perfectly aligned with ours; says Matthew Bahen, Sales and Marketing Director at the Wine Republic. "His philosophy of regional specialisation is a great communication platform for us. The regional element is a signpost with which China's many budding wine enthusiasts can develop a point of reference.
'We have no doubt that Hewitson's quality message and story will create a loyal group of consumers. which will continue to expand in a sustainable way. The third party associations that the Chinese consumer has for Australian products continue to work in our favour. Although the Chinese still associate quality with European Wines, Australia currently remains second only to France in terms of our market share."
Wine for a new generation
China's interest in wine has grown steadily since the 1990s, and Chinese people have embraced It as a new, healthy and low-cost alternative to traditional drinks. In the past wine was sipped, served as a shot or with a mixer like spirits. Now, however, Chinese are adopting more Western wine-drinking habits and wine appreciation is associated with high social status.
Imported wines dominate the high-end market in China, and competition among exporters is fierce. Early market entrants like France and Italy, the 'Old World' suppliers, have high market recognition and a reputation for supplying quality, premium wine products. More recent market entrants like Australia, Chile and the USA are referred to as 'New World' players. Despite enjoying less prestige, they offer better value for money than then European counterparts.
'In my experience, Australia has worked very hard at the volume end of the wine market; explains Dean Hewitson, 'While suppliers have usually been very successful, the market remains a fluid, commodity-priced one that is subject to general market influences.
'It is true that more and more Chinese are drinking wine and the volume segment is filling this void, Yet, affluent Chinese consumers have always been fascinated with the great wines of Europe and it is our goal for these consumers to hold Hewitson wines in the same esteem.
'Internationally, we compare with Europe's best wine producers, and it is important for us to get this message to China. The remaining challenge is now 10 convince prosperous Chinese consumers that great Australian wines are every bit as good as their French equivalents and that serving and drinking our wines delivers the same status."
Expanding market share
Hewitson's primary Chinese clients are private customers and restaurants, but he is confident of seeing an expansion of the company's market share, Certainly, Hewitson Wines has attained wide national acclaim. Most recently, its 2006 Old Garden Mourvedre was identified as the best 100% Mourvedre in the January 2009 issue of China's Food & Wine magazine.
The company is currently focusing on continuing to tailor exports to suit Chinese needs, while capitalising on the opportunity to satiate the growing desire of affluent Chinese consumers to appreciate and enjoy Hewitson's exclusive offerings. Dean Hewitson is confident that the Government's recent signing of two new agreements with China will further boost Australian success In this region.
The Wine Republic
Link to article pages 92,93 (use the page turner to 96-97)
Download article (JPG: 330 kB)