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In Vino… Opportunitas

Cambodia’s wine market is still small and seen as one of the toughest in the region to enter. But there are many advantages for those who do manage to penetrate it. Clothilde le Coz discovers why and talks to the local representative of Bordeaux wine merchant Grands Vins de Gironde.


Unlike wine itself, the Southeast Asian wine market has not depended so much on maturity: It took only a few years for it rise from nonexistence to showing great promise. To the north, China is now the world’s biggest drinker of red wine – overtaking Europe in 2013 – and the world’s second vineyard owner. The wine sector has since been infiltrating lifestyles across Asia, and is now evolving to accommodate the taste preferences of Asian wine lovers. As such, Southeast Asia now accounts for 3 percent of the world’s wine sales and it is estimated that 19 million litres of wine is leaving Singapore – the biggest wine hub in Southeast Asia – every year for export within the region. Historical importers and big players did not wait for this growth to happen in Cambodia, and have been operating patiently for the past 10 years, invading the wine market and waiting for it to explode. But as local paletes mature, the market is ripe for smaller importers to enter.

Grands Vins de Gironde (GVG), an exclusive Bordeaux wine importer and one of the oldest and largest Bordeaux merchants in France, is an example of this access to the market. With only one exclusive retailer in Phnom Penh, the company is slowly gaining a foothold in Asia.

“I believe Cambodia has a few advantages for Bordeaux importers,” states Marion Grimaldi, the local representative for GVG. Established in Cambodia in 2013, GVG now belongs to the “Maison de Luze,” one of France’s oldest wine importers, which also specializes in spirits. In fact, for the importer, competition is not a problem. “Cambodia in itself represents an opportunity. De Luze decided to come to Southeast Asia to develop its market regionally and this is what we started to do,” Grimaldi says, listing Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia as markets that GVG had moved on in recent years.


– Marion Grimaldi, Local Representative, Grands Vins de Geronde

Transforming Tastes, Transforming Market

Proportionately, Cambodia imports more wine than Vietnam. Historically, however, beers and spirits generally have a bigger market share here than wine does. A user-friendly tax regime is one of the more attractive factors for importing into Cambodia, but it is not the main incentive, Grimaldi says. As behaviours change and living standards rise, consumption changes too. In Cambodia today, wine has become chic and trendy. “One the advantages for French wine, and especially Bordeaux, is that Cambodia still carries some French blend in its culture and history,” Grimaldi says. “This is already something important to consider to develop.” To GVG, this evolution of Cambodian society is definitely an opportunity to build on. GVG strictly imports Bordeaux wines only. But it has selected a wide selection from low-end to higher-end and “Grands Crus,” to better please Cambodian palates and tastes. “So far, we decided to import red and white wines. This was strategic to represent the Bordeaux wines and introduce our brand step by step. Next year, we will diversify our offering and add new products, such as sparkling wine, for example, which is very much appreciated here,” Grimaldi explains. For the past two years, GVG has not only been selling red and white wines, it has also been educating its Cambodian clientele, Bordeaux-style. “One of the biggest challenges for Bordeaux wines is to be understood,” she says. “What makes its reputation is also the toughest selling point here.”


– Marion Grimaldi, Local Representative, Grands Vins de Geronde

Bordeaux has that specific way to blend grape varieties. While this is the source of its sophistication, it is also very complicated for amateurs to understand. “Cambodia is a beer and whisky country. Appreciating wine still needs to be learned. This is why we organise food pairing events with local foods for example, or to teach how to spot a good wine, even low-end, and learn how to appreciate it,” Grimaldi says. GVG’s goal is to fight the image of Bordeaux’s wines abroad: expensive and sophisticated. To GVG, removing the consumer’s inhibitions and contributing to their knowledge is the best way to enter the market. Progress has been slow, but is happening.

Words and photography by Clothilde le Coz