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France's Maison Sichel celebrates bumper year with sales up 6%

Published:  29 January, 2014

The Bordeaux-based Maison Sichel saw its turnover rise by 6% to 42 million EUR, with demand from China leading the charge.

Volume and value sales to China were up by 30% in 2013, making it the producer and shipper's best performing market. It was followed by Sweden, then Norway.

Sichel's figures come after long-term investment in the Chinese market. It has been exporting  to Asia (Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan) for 30 years and direct to China for the past 14 years. It opened an office in Beijing in 2008, which has sinced moved to Shanghai and now employs three staff. 

Charles Sichel, export director, said: "From 2000-2008 I didn't see that many Europeans on airplanes going out there but that has changed. Travelling to China is still an important part of my job but it was crucial in the early days because one of the key things to doing good business there in the long-term is understanding the customers, talking face to face, being on the same wave-length and knowing how they want us to operate. As soon as this happens business is less complicated - not necessarily easy but, less complicated. This is true of all business but especially so in a country like China that has a very strong, specific culture so different from ours. The opportunities are still immense but the pitfalls are enormous."

"The wine market in China has matured massively over the past two years or so," said Sichel. "Historically there were two categories of wines: very low entry level and then the top Grands Crus Classés. We could never sell anything in between and this was because the wines were difficult to understand - people couldn't even understand a label 14-15 years ago.

"Now there is greater knowledge, for example, of the 1855 Classification so that people are realising that there aren't just the First Growths but an awful lot more wines that are [...] affordable but aspirational ? let alone those at Cru Bourgeois level. In fact, at Sichel, we're having more and more success now with non-classified wines that offer excellent value for money. Couple all this with the move a year ago by the Chinese government to persuade people that expensive ostentatious business gifts were no longer de rigueur and you have a very different market".