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Napa Winegrowers Win Brand Protection in China

Harlan Estate wines
Harlan Estate's flagship cabernet sauvignon-based wines are displayed at the winery in Oakville, California on March 4, 2010. Photographer: Chip Chipman/Bloomberg

Napa Valley Vintners said they have won brand protection from China, giving them the opportunity to improve marketing as export sales grow.

China granted the Californian area “geographic indication” status, Linda Reiff, executive director for the vintners, said. The move follows similar recognition from importers including the European Union, Canada, India, Thailand and most recently Brazil, and will enable Napa vintners to improve their targeting of one of the world’s fastest-growing wine markets.

“We’ve been working on this for about five years behind the scenes,” Reiff said in a telephone interview last night. “We went directly to the Chinese government.”

A group of 40 winegrowers from the Napa region visited China in May and producers are seeking to benefit from demand in cities like Shanghai for imported wines from premium areas such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and California. More than 100 of the association’s vintners, or almost one quarter of its membership, are already exporting to China.

Californian wineries have increased their sales effort in China in the past four years since the Beijing Olympic Games, tapping into the country’s affluent growing middle-class. The state’s exports to China jumped more than 40 percent last year.

The agreement applies to wines sold in the Chinese mainland for now, with Hong Kong and Macau subject to separate laws.

China Missions

Napa Valley Vintners has taken trade missions to China for more than 14 years, and has now stepped up the frequency of visits to two a year, according to Reiff.

“It’s a very good market for those of us plying those waters,” Russ Weis, General Manager of Silverado Vineyards, said by telephone.

The Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, includes wine areas such as St. Helena and Rutherford. While it accounts for just 4 percent of Californian wine production, it has a high profile in the export market.

“Napa has been actively seeking recognition around the world,” Michael Honig, president of Rutherford-based Honig Vineyard & Winery and a member of the Napa Valley Vintners’ board, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It helps protect our brand.”

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