Cape Town - It's tough to get into the Chinese wine
industry, but those who manage to do so find themselves in a world of
Hein Koegelenberg of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte in the
Franschhoek Valley got a foot in the door and in the current year has exported
2.8 million bottles of wine to China, about 60% of South Africa’s total wine exported
But it hasn’t been easy, because there are great differences
between the South African and Chinese wine markets. In particular, the personal
involvement of wine producers is important in China.
About five years ago Koegelenberg realised that the American
economy was running out of steam and he decided instead to apply his money and
energy to try to get into Asia’s wine market.
The first step was to find a reliable and capable agent.
Expert advice made him realise that, unlike in the case of American and
European agents, he needed to spend time with his Chinese agent, because to the
Chinese good relations are highly significant
He then had to decide which marketing channels to use,
because it is difficult to get into the traditional retailer and off-sales
Wine producers can also focus on hotel groups, tax-free
zones like Hong Kong and international airports, of which there are more than
120 in China. There are also direct channels, through which agents supply wine
direct to consumers.
Koegelenberg entered into an agreement with an agent,
Aussino World Wines, which has 235 wine shops. His wine is the only South
African brand on show among the world’s best.
Koegelenberg also signed an agreement with the Chinese
University Alumni Association in Beijing. Around 30 000 chief executives of
Chinese companies are members, 40 of whom come to South Africa every quarter.
Koegelenberg then has to entertain them.
He has also established a joint venture, Perfect Wines of
South Africa, with the Chinese company Perfect China, which markets their
mutual product, L’Huguenot, in China. Perfect China has 5 000 depots with more
than a million agents selling wine directly.
Chenin blanc would appear to be the leading imported white
wine, as it goes well with the fish dishes preferred by many Chinese. More red
wine is however consumed and the L’Huguenot’s label is found on shiraz wines
and shiraz-pinotage blends.
Wine is popular for gifts. There are four opportunities
during the year when gifts are given to others, family members, employees and
Koegelenberg says it's not a good idea to give a parcel of three
bottles of wine as a gift to anyone in Northern China, because three items
means you want to end the relationship.
He says it's important to understand
the Chinese culture and become familiar with the translations of wine
names, as they can convey meanings unlike those of the original Afrikaans.
Next year he wants to bring a group of 800 Chinese to South
Africa as part of his client-reward scheme, a practice that is also part of
“We are busy translating a Cape Wine Academy course into
Mandarin,” says Koegelenberg. “From next month our winemaker will present it in
China for three weeks.
"We envisage exposing 100 Chinese people to South African
wines every two days.”
Koegelenberg is also involved in marketing South Africa and
its wines in China.
For more business news in Afrikaans, go to Sake24.com.