Hawkes Bay wine producers are joining forces to try to cash in on the growing wine market in China.
The three-year campaign to promote Hawkes Bay wine in China is backed by $500,000 from the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust, with input from each of the 17 wineries involved.
Hugh Crichton, head winemaker of Vidal Estate - one of the participating wineries - said the joint move would help improve understanding of New Zealand wine in China.
Crichton hopes the project will help establish Hawkes Bay as a distinct wine brand, much like Bordeaux in France.
"When you look around the world and you look at successful regions, they really are known as a brand, for example, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo. We looked back at ourselves and asked who we are and where we want to be," Crichton said.
The funding will be used to hire wine marketer and educator Fongyee Walker, founder of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting.
Based in China, Walker will host educational events and wine tastings as well as social media campaigns to help educate the Chinese public about the New Zealand wine market.
According to Walker, Chinese consumers are wary of exploring the wine world, simply because of limited knowledge about wine.
"Lack of education and a lack of confidence to buy for taste and not for the label [is the biggest barrier in the Chinese market]. This holds back most Chinese consumers from exploring the range of wines in the world," Walker said.
China has become one of the world's biggest wine markets. With steady growth of around 10 per cent each year, the industry is forecastto reach US$19 billion ($22 billion) in sales by 2016.
The Chinese market is largely dominated by red wine, accounting for 90 per cent of all sales. As the second-largest wine region in New Zealand and dominant in red wine plantings, Hawkes Bay is the ideal region to promote in China, according to Crichton.
Although it was early in the campaign, with the first events scheduled for this week, Walker said she had already seen positive results.
"New Zealand wines do quite well in China for a number of reasons - many Chinese have been there to study or on holiday and have very positive views of New Zealand and thus a good view of New Zealand wine," Walker said.
"I've found that giving most Chinese tasters of New Zealand wines gets them very excited about the flavours and styles."
Crichton said he was confident the campaign would be a success although he noted that "only time will tell".
Air New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers have teamed up to promote New Zealand as a destination for wine tourism.
This will include international campaigns and initiatives, as well as hosting food and wine media from around the world to New Zealand on familiarisation tours. Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon is excited by the opportunities the emerging wine tourism market poses for the country.
"Over the past five years more than a million international visitors have experienced New Zealand's stunning vineyards and wineries and many, many more people around the world have sampled our world class wine," Luxon said.
Philip Gregan, chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers, said wine tourists spend 30 per cent more than average tourists.