Member Spotlight: The North American Premiere Wine Shop Brings the Best of North American Wines to China

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Member Spotlight:
The North American
Premiere Wine Shop

Wine Consultant Emilie Steckenborn talks about bringing North American wines to China

www.napwine.com

wb3Wines from all over the world are finding their way to China.

The company has already 23 years of alcoholic beverage distribution and restaurateur experience in China. Can you briefly compare the state of the Chinese wine then and now?
23 years ago, local spirits dominated the market as they continue to do so today. Wine was considered out of reach for many in terms of availability and price. In only a few years, the wine industry in China has changed dramatically. At first there was little wine appreciation or understanding, and people were unaware of what they were drinking. They were mostly purchasing wines from France or from famous Chateaux. Recently, we’ve seen a growing interest in wine understanding through education, which has helped raise interest of New World wines. Nonetheless, the biggest change would be the vast selection of wines from all parts of the world now making itself into the market. This can be seen at trade shows and wine expositions where numerous brands and wineries are looking to enter and gain recognition in China.

What is the greatest challenge in the Chinese wine market?
Our biggest challenge has been raising awareness and interest of North American brands. Since wine is a relatively new market, very few people have had the chance to taste wines from Canada or the USA and have yet to experience New World wines. Another challenge is trying to cover all areas of China. Drinking trends, habits and preferences vary for each area in China, therefore making distribution and sales in China a lengthy and difficult task.

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What are the differences in wine consumption/drinking habits between Canada and China?
There are many differences in wine habits between Canada and China. In China, consumption takes place during events and celebrations. Buyers will purchase large orders for corporate gifting and rarely for collection or investment. In Canada we can consider ourselves quite lucky, wine prices and selection are relatively good. In China, finding good wines or niche products is not very easy and the high margins make it usually unreachable for the average person.

How do you sell Canadian wine to the Chinese consumer?
Our strength has been targeting Chinese who have visited or lived in Canada. Many of them wish to give wine as a gift to friends and family and have usually tasted or visited wineries in Canada. They associate Canadian wine with positive attributes such as quality and cleanliness. Let’s not forget Canada’s liquid gold, Icewine, a sweet dessert wine that attracts a lot of Chinese interest!

wb2The North American Premiere Wine Shop has the largest professional underground cellar in Mainland China.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Canadian wine brands?
Canadian wine brands are well perceived in the marketplace as niche wines that are high priced, good quality and produced in limited quantities. As for weaknesses, there is little awareness of Canadian table wines. Prices fall into the premium to superpremium category which limits large orders and there is not enough quantity produced to meet supply. Fake Icewine is an on-going issue, it misleads consumers and hinders our brand and product image. Most importantly, in order to succeed, there needs to be a lot more support from the government and wineries back home. With such a great opportunity to raise Canada’s wine presence abroad, now is the time to educate, promote and market our amazing wines.

wb5As wine appreciation grows in China, the key will be to invest in wine culture education.

What are you most proud of in promoting Canadian wines in China?
We are very proud of Wine Trend, our wine and lifestyle magazine. Wine Trend Magazine is available in both English and Chinese and is distributed across China with a core focus on educating the general public about our wines and wine culture. This is how we hope to reach a larger public and share wine education. At our wine shop we have a qualified wine consultant and educator from Canada. We run many guided tastings and events focused on raising awareness of North American wines. Many guests are often surprised by the quality of Canadian wines once we provide them with the information they need to appreciate it.

What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned as a Canadian wine representative?
The most valuable lesson I have learnt in this market is to not to be swayed by market trends as they change very quickly. China is still developing and French wines continue to dominate. Unlike others, we focus on niche producers and lesser known areas and hope that as wine appreciation grows in China, so will interest in the wineries we represent. The next chapter of the industry will unfold well for those who start investing, marketing and educating new wine enthusiasts.

wb4The North American Premiere Wine Shop

For more information visit The North American Premiere Wine Shop

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