I attended the 2013 Meininger’s International Wine Conference in Düsseldorf last week and came away very impressed. The conference takes place on the Saturday before the Sunday opening of ProWein and is a full day deep-dive into three current topics of high interest.
This year’s focus was on the China market, E-commerce and the German market. Stevie Kim, GM of Vinitaly
made an energetic presentation distilled from her visits there. Others speaking included Alberto Fernandes of Torres, Li Demei, Professor at University of Beijing, Michael Thurner of Austria’s Fine Brands, and the irrepressible and globe-trotting Robert Joseph, editor-at-large for Meininger’s whose insightful questions and deep experience in the market helped guide the dialog. Each presentation contributed to a view of the China market which reminded me of the blind men and an elephant story…but in a good way. The only way to understand the market is in pieces, and then putting those pieces together to understand the whole.
The China market is huge, complicated and stratified…and rapidly morphing. The clear message from all was, don’t look at the market as “China”, but rather the many different states, regions and cities. Personal relationships, trust and “face” are at the heart of the business, and trying to force western ways is a one-way ticket to disaster.
A second highlight was a fascinating presentation by superstar winemaker Angelo Gaja translated by Willi Klinger of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.
Willi used to be the Export Director for Gaja wines so it was fun watching two old friends talk. It was real treat to meet Angelo and his daughter Gaia.
And speaking of legends, one of the recipients of the Meininger’s Awards at the evening function was Margrit Biever Mondavi,
widow of Robert Mondavi whose presence and presentation brought the house to its feet.