China: The “New New” World of Wine?

chinaIt’s exciting to watch an industry being born, even if it’s an industry as unlikely as — Chinese fine wine.

Huh? They’re making “fine wine” in China?

Maybe not yet, or at least not a lot. But one of the Most Classic of the Most Classic wineries just entered the Chinese wine market. Chateau Lafite has purchased land, and is planting vineyards in China.


We know that demand for fine wine in China has been growing dramatically, as an affluent middle class emerges that wants to have all the things that the rest of the world’s affluent middle class wants to have. Wine is one of those things, and until recently, importers have tried to satisfy growing demand with Bordeaux and other wines.

But it shouldn’t take long (like more than a nano-second) for an enterprising Chinese entrepreneur to decide to create fine wine from Chinese soil. After all, there’s so much of it! Surely they can find good wine-grape-growing conditions somewhere on that huge landmass.

And they have. Some seminal Chinese wineries include Grace Vineyards and Silver Heights Vineyards. They’re trying hard to learn what to grow and where to grow it in order to make good, or even great wines, but we should all appreciate that there’s a learning curve. As CNN Go reported,

“The Chinese farming industry is focused on quantity not quality yields, it’s an industrial business, not an agricultural lifestyle,” he says.

“Chinese companies (are) producing massive yields to keep up with ever-increasing demands and market competition for who can deliver first [thereby harvesting before grape maturity],” Fernandez adds.

But Gao believes that the Chinese consumer is developing a palate for wine, and the demand will be met with supply.

I’m sure it will. That’s not a radical thought — this is the pattern that’s been followed in most of the New World wine countries: in places like Chile and Argentina, and even Spain, first they produce lots of mediocre wine, and then investors and locals enter the game who want to produce quality wine and find the places and the money to do it.

But here’s what’s astounding about China’s place in the wine world:

“If China keeps producing wine at its current rate, the country will generate 128 million cases of wine by the end of 2012, an increase of 77 percent that would see it overtake Australia’s forecast of 121 million cases.”
Holy cow! The sheer weight of numbers makes Chinese wine production a mind-boggling proposition. I don’t know if we’ll see Chinese wines in American wine stores anytime soon: will there be “Made in China” labels on our grocery store wine shelves?
But it’ll be fascinating to watch the growth of an industry. “Chinese Bordeaux anyone?”… Cheers.
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