March 19, 2013

Chinese Wines Ready For Their International Close-Up

Four Wines Get Permanent Spot At Berry Bros & Rudd’s London Store

Changyu's Moser Château, Ningxia

Less than a year after its Cabernet Gernischt wine was featured at the British supermarket chain Waitrose, Changyu is poised for a promotion of sorts in the UK, as wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) announced this week that the Shandong winery will have a permanent spot at BBR’s London store. In all, four Château Changyu wines — a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Ningxia and three ice wines from Liaoning — will hit store shelves, priced from £19-£65 (US$29-$98) a bottle.

With a price tag of £39 ($59), the Changyu red stocked by BBR is a distinctly more high-end offering than the £7.99 ($12) Cabernet Gernischt at Waitrose.

Though not very well known outside of its native country, Changyu is currently the world’s tenth largest winery, with annual sales of US$695 million. Over the past decade, facing greater competition from massive rivals like Great Wall and Dynasty, as well as smaller independent boutique producers, Changyu has looked to raise its international profile and tried to position itself as China’s premiere winery. Currently employing European consultant Lenz Moser to oversee some of its development work, Changyu built the sprawling Chateau Changyu-Castel with French wine company Castel in 2002, followed in subsequent years by six other chateaux.

By 2016, Changyu plans to open a massive “wine city” in Yantai, Shandong, covering an estimated area of 413ha and costing around 6 billion yuan (US$942.6 million). Comprising a research institute and wine production facilities and vineyards, the “city” will also feature its own “European-style village,” two wine and brandy chateaux and an international wine trading center.

Internationally, BBR is one of Changyu’s most high-profile supporters, with Mark Pardoe, MW, Berry Bros. & Rudd wine buying director telling the drinks business this week:

“It seems that the predictions we made in our ‘Future of Wine Report’ in 2008 are already beginning to come true – and this is a first step towards serious international recognition.

“China is already the eighth largest producer of wine in the world so it was only a matter of time before it entered the international market and its huge geographical size and range of climates mean that there must be regions capable of producing good wine.

“Until now the country’s focus has been on its volume-driven domestic market, and other export efforts have been based on external investment. Changyu’s strategy represents a change, with home-grown investment in partnership with international expertise, with a real will to get things done, so the time felt right to take an early temperature of the water.”

Imported wine dominates the mid-to-high-end of the market in China, but domestic producers are upping their games

While BBR is sticking its neck out a bit by deciding to stock four Chinese wines, it’s undeniable that the global profile of some Chinese producers — often led by experienced Western consultants or internationally-trained Chinese winemakers — is rising. Last year, Chinese wineries took home 18 medals at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards, and this May, Château Hansen, a 450 hectare winery near the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia, will be the first Chinese winery to exhibit at the London International Wine Fair. Earlier this year, Ningxia — home of Changyu’s aforementioned Cab Sauv/Merlot blend — was called out by week as a must-visit wine destination in the New York Times “46 Places To Go In 2013” list.

Arguably the heartland of China’s developing wine industry, Ningxia has gained a great deal of attention in recent years, owing to the rising quality of its boutique wineries — among them Silver Heights (Jing Daily interview) and Pernod Ricard-invested Helan Mountain. Later this year, Moët Hennessy’s Chandon Ningxia winery joint venture will begin producing sparkling white wine from locally grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc grapes.

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Tag: BBR, berry bros. & rudd, britain, changyu... , More
  • Naomi

    Too bad you can’t get decent Changyu wine in China. Domestically, Changyu only sells the cheap, nasty stuff.

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