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STUART INNES SOUTH Australian winemakers are looking to this month’s China Wine Awards for a springboard further into the burgeoning China market.

The awards, to be judged in Hong Kong, have drawn a big number of entries from many wine-making countries, including Portugal, Italy, Spain, Argentina, the US, New Zealand, South Africa, France and even Greece, Vietnam and Canada.

A good showing at the China Wine Awards will be a big help in sales, as many Chinese wine drinkers are impressed with the status of medals on a label. And it is a naive yet fast-growing, lucrative market offering big potential.

‘‘We’re very excited about the huge increase in entries since the last competition, especially from Australia,’’ China Wine Awards president Kelly England told SA Business Journal from Hong Kong.

‘‘It reflects the increased interest in the fast-growing China market and the increased success of wines that have placed highly in the awards and are increasing their sales due to their fame and recognition as winners.’’

Ms England says Australian wines, many of them South Australian, make up the second biggest entry for the awards just behind Spain.

‘‘ This reflects the suitability of quality Australian wines in the China market,’’ she says.

‘‘China consumers think of Australia as a clean, healthy and natural place and this enhances your wine-selling ability.’’

One SA winery already with runs on the board in China and looking forward to this month’s China Wine Awards is Penny’s Hill, run by Tony Parkinson, at McLaren Vale.

‘‘We’re working hard in China – I’ve had two visits there this year. It’s a major emerging market and the numbers are going to be important to us,’’ he says.

‘‘We are sending premium wine. And we are getting proper prices.’’

The Penny’s Hill Footprint Shiraz and its entry-level Shiraz Cracking Black are already doing well.

Mr Parkinson says Chinese buyers are prepared to pay for high-end wine, as part of a symbol of prestige.

‘‘Gifting is very big there. They may never drink the wine.’’

Like other SA wine makers with quality product, Mr Parkinson is worried about plagiarism in China – promoting wine as a top product, even with copy marketing collateral, when it is not.

And he wants more wine appreciation classes there, so more buyers can tell the difference.

‘‘Some people are putting a spoonful of sugar into red wine to make it sweeter,’’ he laments.

‘‘We have to be careful we don’t pump tank-farm stuff into China. It will spoil Australia’s reputation.’’

Mr Parkinson says distribution logistics from SA into China is a challenge, but the yield is too good to ignore and justifies the work.