Italian wine just rocked–or, rather, discoed–China.
The 2023 Vinitaly China Roadshow hustled through Beijing, Changsha and Hangzhou last week, with big turnouts in all three cities. And with the hit single ‘Italodisco‘ regularly playing during the tastings, it was easy to find fingers snapping and hips moving while sampling wines.
I helped contact Beijing bars and restaurants for the Italian Wine Week that overlapped this roadshow, co-organized by Veronafiere and ITA (Italian Trade Agency), and joined the trade tastings in Beijing and Changsha.
I also made some videos. (Note: If you are in China, and can’t see these videos, you can find them on my WeChat channel, BeijingBoyce.)
Of the half-dozen trade tastings I have joined in Beijing since ‘zero COVID’ ended last December, this one had the most enthusiasm.
According to Veronafiere, over 1,000 people registered for the Beijing stop, which featured 60 exhibitors and over 800 wines during a five-hour tasting.
One reason I like Veronafiere events, including Wine to Asia in Shenzhen, is the inclusion of other drinks and foods, from ice-cold gelato to cutting-edge cocktails.
In Beijing, this meant both coffee and coffee cocktails by Delonghi and Hope & Sesame Bar; cheese from Consorzio Fontina; pre-packaged cocktails by NIO; and treats like the liqueur Disaronno. (This is the rare wine show where the first whiff when you enter the premises is of freshly brewed coffee!)
Of course, Italian wine starred at the event, and we saw a diverse lineup in terms of regions, styles, grape varieties and prices, from entry-level below RMB40 (USD5.5) to quality mid-range options at ~RMB120 (USD16.5) to pricier bottles. Plus, a dedicated Barolo and Barbaresco zone, with some of China’s better-known sommeliers handling this area in all three cities.
I sent details about the event to numerous Beijing restaurant, bar and club people and it was good to see some show up and find new wines for their venues. I tried a dozen-plus Prosecco with one owner seeking bubblies and he found a good match.
(All three cities also had “master classes”: I generally skip these and head straight to tasting wine with the importers and distributors, but it sounds like the education sessions were busy.)
Finally, the cavernous space at Rosewood Hotel Group helped with the mood. Typically, such tastings are held in mid-sized chandelier-centric five-star hotel event rooms, and don’t have the best vibes. Having so much tasting space, plus a foyer in which to enjoy coffee cocktail or espresso, plus the organizers’ music–cue ‘Italodisco’!–was a bonus.
Changsha, a city of about 10 million in south-central China that is generating buzz for its food and drink scenes these days, also saw a strong turnout, with over 500 registered members, over 600 wines and 4.5 hours of tasting at the Niccolo. That turnout included a large number of food and drink KOLs. And lots of enthusiastic people asking questions about the wines (see video above).
This was a great chance for people to not only explore classic Italian styles and grapes but also the more recent wave of “craft” wines: natural, orange et al.
(The Prosecco and traditional-method sparkling wine were perfect for pairing with one of Changsha’s most famous dishes: stinky tofu. I’ve found this salty spicy dish works well with many bubbles!)
In any case, good energy at this event, including by The Wine Guy (TWG), the last table pouring both in Changsha, Beijing and, I’m told, Hangzhou.
Anyway, I don’t get involved with many trade events, with those by Veronafiere, including the Wine to Asia show in Shenzhen, an exception.
As noted, I like how the organizers include products such as cheese, cocktails, gelato, coffee and more; how they pursue new niches, such as the Living Wines and Young Chinese Winemakers sections at Wine to Asia; how they are open to looking at attendee experience beyond wine, including in terms of food and music and more; and so on.
Of course, in the end, the ultimate goal is sales, and the verdict is still out as both wine imports and local production in China have been falling for years.
But if you are going to fight to energize the China wine scene, then at least fight a good fight, and these efforts by Veronafiere certainly do that.
Also check out these two Q&8s I did with Veronafiere China’s Simone Incontro on the local wine market, including consumption, trends, the rise of craft wines, trade fairs, Italian Wine Week, and more. There is one from September here and March here.
List of Italian Wine Week Participants
(Apologies for any typos in posting Italian / Chinese names in English!)
Buona Bocca, abboCCa, Forno, Bottega, Giada Garden, Burge’s Bistro & Bar, The Merchants, Vinvino, Trattoria, Living Room, La Taverne, CHEERS, Amico, Opera Bombana, Alla Goccia, TRiO, Fiume, FuDao, fafa Bistro, Origine, Osteria Italiana del Vino, Italian Wine Club, Yi Yuan Wine Restaurant, Pizza Mama, Penglai Bistro & Grill, Dada Bar, Tavola Italian Dining, CHIC, Fufú, Wine O’Clock, PAT, Heritage, Grape Lane, ROOT 85, White Tiger Village, Canotto, Sediment, Charcoal
Niccolo Kitchen, Bar 93, German Munich Town Winery, Also Sake, Ho & Wong’s Spirit, Yi Pu Cellar Door, La Romana, RISO, Yi Jia Craft Wine, CHEERS, 105 Whisky, Bistro Wang, Relax Western Restaurant, Neonato Flice, Double Eight, ROOTS, Fragrant House, Celestial Heart, Laowai Coffee, Bar PLAYS, La Ronde de Nuit, Sweet Pepper Steak, Xiu Jazz, Time Stamp, Joy Restaurant, 100 Mile Music Tavern, Eurasia-China-Italian Trade, Glou Glou Republic, M&Y Art Bar, Diva Wine Shop & Bar, Gambero Rosso
Winederful Bottle, Chin-China Bistro, Moli Italian Restaurant, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Why Wine, La Gauche, La Floue, Vin de Jean Henri, HULU Bistro, Le Coq, Alimentari Grande, Winesday, BD Coffee & Bistro, Drunken Grapes, Villa Moon, Bistro du Vin, Oino, Nuits, Dong Chang Restaurant, Savoy Bistro, Chez Liu, La Bottega, Vitae
PARTIAL LIST OF ROADSHOW VENDORS
Gruppo Caviro, Tenuta Mosole, Savian, Tenuta Sant’antonio: Famiglia Castagnedi, Ca’del Sette, Valdo Spumanti, Casa Vinicola Sartori, Ottella, Casa Paladin, Azienda Agraria Guerrieri, Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, talyFun, La Guardiense, Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano, Cascina Chicco & Saraja, San Silvestro & Costa di Bussia, Famiglia Cecchi, Banfi Wines, Villa Dante, Feudo Arancio, Fantinel, Mezzacorona Group, Stemmari, Conti Zecca, Bosca SpA, ZONIN 1821, Shanghai Sinodrink, Taste Italy, Summergate, Interprocom, Giuseppe Campagnola, TWG: The Wine Guy, Shanghai Finigate, Shanghai Ouya Wine, Illva Shanghai, Santadi & Accornero, Shanghai G Cru, Shanghai Domen, Yishe-Elena Fucci, Revines, CWS, Uita International, Shanghai SAVA, Shanghai Pietra Rossa International Trading, Sarment, Zefiro Fine Wines, Agriment Italia, Giordano Vini, San Marzano Wines, Cantine Lizzano, Cincinnato, Compagnia Mediterranea del Vino, Poderi di San Pietro, Tornatore and Consorzio DOP Fontina.
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