WELLINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government's trade agency and the country's wine industry body have begun a wine certification program for Chinese experts as part of a bid to boost sales in China over the next three to five years.
A joint initiative by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW), the program has been tailored for Chinese wine professionals to increase their knowledge and enthusiasm for New Zealand wine.
The first group of eight Chinese experts had just completed the course with a 90-minute exam after a three-day intensive course in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay region, prior to attending Pinot Noir NZ 2013 in Wellington from Monday to Thursday, NZTE announced Monday.
NZW marketing manager Asia Monty James told Xinhua on Monday that the New Zealand Wine Education program would provide influential wine trade, media and educators with in-depth information about New Zealand wine.
"The course is ultimately designed to provide information that builds confidence to tell and sell the New Zealand wine story, which will supplement the promotion from the individual wine companies and their Chinese importers," James said in an e-mail interview.
"What we are piloting, through education and tasting, is a base of clear, concise Chinese-language materials, presentations that position New Zealand as a unique, premium and diverse wine producing country with a world-class sustainability program."
NZW and NZTE planned to run the course in China to target a mix of importers and distributors who were already selling premium New Zealand wine, as well as professionals in the food and beverage sector who sold New Zealand wine.
Those taking part in the course were selected according to their standing and influence in the China wine market and their personal and professional experience with existing wine certifications, he said.
They graduated with a Level 2 New Zealand Wine Professional certificate demonstrating that the bearer had a professional understanding of New Zealand as a winegrowing region.
"The wine education program is designed to build the brand story of New Zealand wine, to position New Zealand wine as a premium wine producing country, whether the trade professional is working in a bar, in a restaurant or premium wine retail," he said.
New Zealand Trade Commissioner to Shanghai Mike Arand told Xinhua in the same e-mail interview that the program was part of a wider NZTE and NZW program being rolled out in China to raise the profile and awareness of New Zealand wine, leading to greater opportunities for New Zealand wine sales.
"The introduction of the wine education program aims to capitalize on the growing trends and market opportunities and is in line with our long-term strategies to build the presence of New Zealand wine and provide greater opportunities for sales of New Zealand wine in China over the next three to five years," Arand said.
"New Zealand wine can already be found in various channels from bars and restaurants to supermarkets and specialized wine outlets, and even on the fast-growing on-line market. It is clear however that the potential for New Zealand wines in all channels is far greater than the current position," he said.
NZTE and NZW firmly believed that working in a coordinated and collaborative way would lead to greater penetration in all channels, he said.
In May last year, NZW completed its biggest-ever road show, in Beijing and Shanghai, which saw a huge growth in attendance from the previous year's events.
The Beijing event saw a 91-percent increase in trade attendance numbers, with 465 attendees, while Shanghai saw a 25-percent rise to 402 attendees, according to NZW.