Okanagan winery breaks new ground marketing to Chinese consumers right here in B.C.
Lunar New Year is approaching, bringing with it dragon dances, red envelopes, turnip cakes, and... Pinot Noir? Incongruous as that may sound, one B.C. winery has uncorked a strategy to ride the tail of the Year of the Horse into a greater local market share.
Summerland-based Okanagan Crush Pad winery has slapped 688 bottles of its 2012 Haywire Pinot Noir ($24.90) with a bright red and gold label depicting the symbol of the horse and good fortune. It has also released a guide to pairing B.C. wine with Asian cuisine, with a suggestion that its offering “pairs well with pepper and onion sauce pork rib as well as seared sablefish with sweet soy sauce and baby bok choy.”
With a concerted push by the B.C. Wine Institute, Okanagan wines have been gaining followers overseas in China. Painted Rock Estate Wineries made headlines recently when it discovered its 2009 Red Icon ($55) was being listed on wine menus in Shanghai at $950 a bottle. Christine Coletta says Okanagan Crush Pad doesn't have the resources to tackle the Asian market just yet.
“I think it's wonderful and I hope one day we'll be there [in Asia],” she says. “But we're not big enough or well-known enough yet to go over there and really make an impact. My efforts would probably be better spent concentrating on the Asian community in Vancouver.”
Food author and broadcaster Stephanie Yuen, who worked with Okanagan Crush Pad on the initiative, says she's surprised that no other winery had pursued the local Asian market like this before, given its size. According to the latest census data, visible minority groups accounted for 41.7 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population, with Chinese the largest visible minority in B.C., accounting for 40.4 per cent of the visible minority population and 10 per cent of B.C.’s total population in 2006. And a recent UBC study forecasts that ethnic Chinese will reach 23 per cent of the Vancouver population by 2031.
“It's about time,” Yuen remarks. “I've been approached by quite a lot of wineries trying to break into the Asian market. They're kind of afraid because of the cultural and language barrier, but whenever a B.C. liquor store brings out the Bordeaux wines for sale, if you have ever been to the lineup, I would say up to 90 per cent of them are Chinese. That tells you something.”
Coletta says the Haywire wine is proving popular with retailers and restaurants, and just six cases remain. “We expect to sell out,” she says proudly. Given the success of this test run, Coletta plans to welcome the Year of the Sheep in 2015 with specially labelled red, white, and sparkling wines. She's also hoping to lure more tourism up to her winery during the summer season.
“We've seen a huge increase in Asian tourist traffic—not buses, but actual individuals traveling to wine country—and many of them are from the lower mainland and different parts of B.C.,” she observes. “I think just getting the Asian community to embrace wine and the culture of wine, wine tourism, it's a real untapped market for us in British Columbia.”