Wine Australia’s Head of Market for Asia Pacific, Hiro Tejima, recently travelled across Asian markets, sharing his passion for fine Australian wine with sommeliers, importers, distributors, media and other key wine trade influencers. Starting in Hong Kong at one of the most important wine trade shows in Asia Pacific, Vinexpo Hong Kong, his trip finished up in Hiro’s native country Japan after showcasing the history and evolution of Australian wine in Taiwan.
First stop: Australian wine triumph at Vinexpo Hong Kong
Vinexpo Hong Kong is Asia’s biggest wine showcase which takes place in one of Australian wine’s most important and valuable markets. This year we had a welcoming stand brimming with personality, camaraderie and confidence; great Australian wine brands were represented by passionate people sharing the Australian fine wine story. The result? The busiest and most successful stand at Vinexpo Hong Kong, showing what can be achieved when the Australian wine community works together.
Hiro’s time in Hong Kong wasn’t all about Vinexpo though. Meetings with Hong Kong Tourism Board, Meat and Livestock Australia, Tourism Australia and local sommelier organisations assisted in the planning of the next round of Australian wine activities in this vital market. Next up will be the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival in October, a great platform for showcasing our wines to almost 150,000 food and wine lovers.
Next stop: Showcasing Australia’s wine history and evolution in Taiwan
While Taiwan is not yet a large market for Australian wine, the close-knit nature of the highly engaged and intelligent wine community in cities like Taipei helps ensure that activities there have a large and positive impact. Hiro was joined in Taipei by Master of Wine Phil Reedman, a respected and authoritative voice in wine adding weight and impact to the events.
First event was the Langton’s Classifications Masterclass, where Australia’s vinous history was explored by Phil with thirty influential wine trade and media guests. Attendees were deeply impressed by classic Australian wines from classic Australian wine regions like the Barossa Valley and Margaret River. Stories were shared from legendary names like Penfold’s and Charles Melton and the afternoon finished with the rare and distinguished Seppeltsfield Para 100 Year Old Vintage Tawny.
Following the Langton’s masterclass, Wine Australia and Austrade Taipei invited key Taiwanese importers to hear a different side of the Australian wine story at an ‘Oceans, Altitude and Attitude’ dinner at the Taipei World Trade Center Club, famous for its beautiful Peking duck. Phil shared the story of the evolution of Australian wine, with a focus on cooler climates and innovations that have added to our fine wine story in recent years. All the wines shown were new to the market, surprising and delighting the guests and increasing their appetite and enthusiasm for fine Australian wine.
Final stop: Changing perceptions of Australian wine from the top down in Asian markets
After finishing Taiwan on a high note, Hiro flew to Nagoya, home to the Toyota Motor Corporation and one of the most conservative major capital city in Japan when it comes to fine wine. First stop in Nagoya was a meeting with Kazunari Kondo, manager of fine wine shop mArcohall and a recent guest on the Pan Asian Trade and Media visit to Australia. Kazunari has devoted a large shelf space to the Australian wine category, with a particular focus on quirky and revolutionary Australian wines. While these aren’t the easiest wines to sell in a conservative market, Kazunari believes in these wines and gives his customers a chance to taste and tell more stories about Australian wine.
While in Nagoya Hiro met with the president of Maruto Mizutani, one of the region’s biggest liquor wholesalers, and discussed what it would take to drive the premium Australian wine category to the next level. ‘Education, education, education’ came the reply. This was especially gratifying given the positive experiences of the wine trade with Australian wine education in Hong Kong and Taiwan already on this trip.
It was off to Tokyo for the final stop on the trip, a special wine trade dinner hosted by the Australian Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Mr Bruce Miller, at his residence. This was the latest in a series of VIP dinners our key partners Austrade have facilitated to showcase exceptional Australian wine and produce. Guests at the dinner ranged from the president of Japan’s largest independent liquor retailer to the heads of various major restaurant chains. The dinner celebrated the conclusion of the JAEPA (Japan Australia Export Partnership Agreement) Menu Competition, an exciting competition where a number of top Japanese restaurants and sommeliers competed to create recipes using Australian produce matched with fine Australian wines.
Special guest speaker at the event was Kenichi Ohashi MW, Japan’s first Master of Wine and one of the judges of the JAEPA competition. Ken discussed the winning wines from the competition: showcasing the people, the places and the stories that made these exceptional Australian wines. The guests were impressed both by the style of these wines and the exceptional value-for-money at premium price points. The evening was a pivotal opportunity, changing perceptions of Australian wine from the very top down. The perfect conclusion to a very busy but very successful seventeen-day trip.
Key takeout: The importance of cultural sensitivity in Asian markets
If there was one consistent theme that kept coming up during Hiro’s travels it was the importance of collaboration to achieve positive outcomes for Australian wine. Working with Austrade on events in Japan and Taiwan increased the reach and impact of these activities. Collaborating with Vinexpo ensured Australian wine stole the show on Shiraz Day. Discussions on how to take the Australian wine category to the next level with distributors in Japan will help ensure Australian wines long term success in these markets. But how does all of this help Australian wine exporters?
Throughout Hiro’s trip key contacts in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan commented to him, ‘You know the Asian way,’ referring to the importance he placed on things like developing and maintaining relationships and communicating/acting courteously with people. Comments like these are a gentle reminder that some of these ‘Asian ways’ are at times different from how we might be used to doing business in the West.
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