Asia wine marketing effort is pathetic

When I read the article in the Mail Tribune about the excess wine in Southern Oregon and the need to increase the market for wines, I thought we have to look at what other states and countries provide to market their wine as compared to what we do in Oregon, and by extension in the U.S.

China has 545 million urban, college graduates, age 25 to 49 — the fastest-growing wine market in the world. I have been to a number of wine shows in Hong Kong that attract buyers from all over the world. The U.S. marketing performance is at best pathetic.

Last year at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Faire, the French exhibit was about the size of 10 boxcars, the Italian the same, South Africa four boxcars, Chile four boxcars. And America? A caboose "… The best U.S. marketing program was put on for California wines by the Port of Oakland(?).

This year, we had an excellent program at Vin Expo Asia put on by the Oregon and Washington wine boards with booths for exhibitors across the aisle from the California Wine Institute booths, so at least the U.S. had some presence. But there is no money in Oregon to help for the follow-up.

Recently, I am told we may get a "grant" from the USDA, then I get these rules:

  • Produce "sustainable" wines solely from estate fruit.
  • Carry certification for USDA Organic, Biodynamic, L.I.V.E or Food Alliance (any one) and produce wines from your vineyard that also carries one of these certifications or Salmon Safe.
  • Not currently sell, or have sold, in mainland China or Hong Kong for more than two years.
  • Be able to participate in market events including trade seminars, trade tastings, dinners and media events. These will be arranged and managed by the Oregon Wine Board and will have fees for participation plus travel costs.
  • Be able to have a principal participate in export activities attached to the program.

I'm out! The rules probably knocked out 70 percent of the viable exporters. I can tell you from experience, this will entail the usual mind-numbing forms and permits, licenses and other requirements to get $1,000 from the bureaucrats in Washington. This is not worth the brain damage.

The French have 50 percent of the imported wine market in China because they have a real marketing program through SOPEXA, a French food and wine marketing company. We have people in Washington who have never sold or made anything — except rules for businesses they know nothing about.

Since 80 percent of its budget goes for food stamps, I guess you know where the U.S. Department of Agriculture is focused. It puts on radio and TV commercials to get more people on food stamps, but it can't afford to help market our agricultural exports in any meaningful way.

And you wonder why the U.S. economy is in the tank?

Lee Topham of Talent exports wine to Asia thorugh his company, Global Wine Export.

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