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Emerging Wine-Producing Nations Gaining Global Footholds

June 21, 1995

BORDEAUX, France (AP) _ Wines from the tips of Africa and South America to eastern Europe and Oceana are gaining global footholds with sometimes astonishing speed.

The dilemma of many winemakers at Vinexpo, the world’s largest wine and spirits trade show that opened for a week’s run Monday, is how to make enough to keep up with demand.

Prominent among ``New World″ wines are those from Chile and Argentina.

``Chilean wine always had a brilliant presence on the world market, though in small quantities,″ says Gilbert Rakvam, technical director of Vina Los Vascos.

Investment brought production up from 125,000 cases in 1989 to more than 250,000 last year of three white wines of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, and two Cabernet Sauvignon reds.

Chile’s overall production was a record high of more than 33 million cases last year, according to Carlos Munez, export manager of Vina Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest winery.

Concha y Toro’s exports have been rising 10-15 percent annually and Munez is looking at a possible 20 percent increase from last year’s 3.3 million cases.

Australian wineries have been exporting about a third of their production, with annual growth in exports ranging from 15 to more than 100 percent, depending on the market.

``To a large extent we’re in a very strong position, sitting there looking at the world and saying, `where do we want to conquer next?‴ says Mike Rogers, European regional manager for Mildara Blass, Australia’s leading producer of premium wines.

New targets this year include the Baltics, Iceland, Belgium and Cyprus, in addition to heavy efforts in already strong markets: 250,000 cases to the United States worth $13.8 million and 200,000 cases to Europe worth $11 million.

While they will never become volume exporters, New Zealand’s 200 winemakers are looking to diversify exports beyond Britain, which takes 70 percent of New Zealand wines sent abroad.

Recent political watersheds have revolutionized the wine industry elsewhere.

The fall of 40 years of socialism in Hungary allowed privatization and modernization of inefficient state-run wineries and has brought dry white and copper-colored sweet wines from the Tokaj region onto world markets.

South Africa’s wine industry has seen the most dramatic fallout of democracy _ and the lifting of economic sanctions from 1991.

Exports surged from 750,000 cases in 1990 to 1.7 million in 1992, 2.8 million in 1993 and 6 million cases last year, says Jannie Retief, chairman of the South African Wine Export Association.

``We can’t keep up with demand,″ he said.

All that daring worries other wine producers, even the Californians, only a few years ago themselves emerging producers.

The aggressiveness of new wine producers ``affects us significantly because they generally are heavily subsidized by governments, which puts us at a disadvantage,″ says Nancy Light of the California Wine Institute.

Lesser-known French producers are deeply concerned too.

``That presents us with our challenge: to get known as a wine with a good quality-price ratio,″ says Jean-Marc Jeannin, owner of the Domaine du Mas Cremat in the Cotes de Roussillon region of southern France.

``But we can play our card, and that’s to slip in at a lower price,″ Jeannin said. ``In this time of the low dollar and economic crisis, people can’t necessarily afford a Bordeaux or a Burgundy.″

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