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China success just right drop for Australian wineries

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SYDNEY, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Australia's embattled wine makers have been given a mighty shot in the arm, coming away with a slew of awards sat the 2014 China Wine & Spirits competition over the weekend, with local mainstays, Taylors Wines cementing their position in the highly competitive Chinese wine market.

Securing poll position at the prestigious China Wine and Spirits Awards in Hong Kong, will see much need oxygen pumped into the Australian sector after a tough run with harvests and stiff global competition in the mid to premium wine ranges.

Australian wineries took home a total of 446 medals, with New Zealand coming in second with 110 medals and Argentina, traditionally a strong performer in the booming Chinese market, managing only nine medals.

It is not the first time Taylors have been recognized at the China Wine and Spirits Awards, having previously been awarded Australian Wine Producer of the Year in 2013, and Australian Wine of the Year for its 2010 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet at the China Wine and Spirits Best Value Awards earlier this year.

At the China Wine Challenge in Shanghai, the 2013 Taylors Estate Merlot proved most popular, being awarded two Trophies as Best of Show and Best New World Red Wine, as well as a Gold Medal.

The dream of running a vineyard is often a short one, even in Australia's rich and diverse soil varietals. Unsustainable returns for the majority of businesses here is why recognition in China is so essential to the future of Australian winemakers.

The Grape Industry Board of South Australia just last week revealed an alarming decline in the price paid for grapes of 57 Australian dollars per ton average (17 percent) across all varieties.

South Australian wineries still injected 127 million Australian dollars into regional incomes although there has been some market consolidation with the famous Riverland vineyard footprint dropping over 20 percent of vineyards, though remaining stable at just under 21,000ha.

Despite the challenges, Australia remains well-placed in China, second behind France, and is achieving the highest average value among the top 10 importing countries.

China has been the fastest growing export market for Australian wine for several years, and, despite a drop in exports in 2013, China remains the biggest destination for Australia's premium wines above 7.50 dollars (6.80 U.S. dollars) per liter.

This was in keeping with a slowdown in the imported wine market across the board, mainly due to the highly effective austerity measures introduced by the Chinese government at the end of 2012, mainly implemented to curb spending by government bodies on luxury goods such as premium imported wines.

Bottled wine exports to China decreased by 7 percent to 33 million liters in 2013, while the average value of bottled exports grew by 3 percent to 6.55 Australian dollars (5.62 U.S. dollars) per liter.

Taylors Wines Managing Director Mitchell Taylor told Xinhua the award wins were testament to the inroads Australian winemakers are making in the all-important China market.

"Australian winemakers are taking a very considered approach to the Chinese market and it is proving to be very valuable long-term, " Mitchell said. "It is always rewarding receiving international accolades, but to have such breadth and depth of recognition in China is a true coup."

The China Wine and Spirits Awards attracts judges from all major purchasing decision makers in the growing Chinese market including wine importers, distributors, wholesalers, restaurant group owners and sommeliers based in China.

The breadth of Australian success reflects the diversity of a sector that criss-crosses almost every climate and soil type for production. This sees Australian vineyards producing all of the major wine types, from red wines to white wines, fortified wines - such as port - and sweet wines to sparkling wines.

There were a total of 1,132 wines entered in this year's China Wine and Spirits Awards, quickly morphing into an internationally critical event for the wine calendar, providing a fast growing Chinese wine market and attracts judges from across the globe, overseen by Chairman of Judging, MW Lynne Sherriff.

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