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Grape expectations from Argentina (5)

By Zhou Siyu  (China Daily)

14:22, September 03, 2012

'China, a continent'

Not all wineries in Argentina can draw on the connection among Chinese people like Rutini does to promote their images. One big challenge for the South American country's winemakers is to find a reliable partner and establish distribution channels in China's complicated market.

"We are constantly looking for new opportunities to develop the Trapiche brand in China," said Ramiro Eduardo Barrios, area export manager at the Trapiche winery. Owned by Argentina's largest wine producer Penaflor SA, Trapiche is the country's largest exported premium brand.

Barrios also expressed concerns about the popularity of premium Argentine wine in China's gift market. "The numbers are good but you just don't know whether this will help promote the brand," he said.

Another concern for the winemakers about China's market, Barrios added, is its slack regulation. This has led to numerous fake and counterfeited premium wines, causing quite a stir in the international winemaking industry. French wines suffered the most. The situation came to a head this year as Chateau Lafite was pressed to launch a campaign to fight fake products in the country.

"All in all, China is definitely a core market for Trapiche and we envision big growth rates over the next few years for Trapiche and Argentina as well," Barrios said.

A reliable and capable Chinese partner becomes all the more important against this background. Catena Zapata, the winery owned by Nicolas Catena's family, is a case in point. "We wasted a few years, but we finally found a good partner," said Jorge Crotta, export manager at the winery.

Catena Zapata is now in an exclusive partnership with a Chinese company Beijing BETC Group, which owns two high-end restaurants featuring Argentine food, one located in Beijing and the other in Shanghai.

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