Group Of Three Canadian Businessmen Recently Opened Maple Leaf Wines In Zhengzhou, Henan Province
Although French Bordeaux still reigns supreme in the mainland China wine market, a growing number of competitors from Australia, Italy, North and South America, and even China itself have spent the last several years gradually narrowing the lead of the Gallic wine superpower. Despite concerns about rampant counterfeiting, as Jing Daily wrote recently, Australian wineries in particular have made great strides in the Chinese market, with exports to China rising to around $100 million this year alone, and this May the American Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke outlined a plan to support the marketing and promotion of U.S. wines in Hong Kong and mainland China. Champagne and sparkling wine producers, too, hope that growing consumption by females and increasing consumer education in China will help them pull market share from Bordeaux wineries.
However, Canadian wineries haven’t been left behind amid China’s “grape rush.” Though plagued with the same counterfeiting issues as Australian producers, Canada is the world’s top producer of ice wine, which is — liter for liter — one of the world’s most expensive vinos. Ubiquitous at duty-free shops in major international airports around the world, ice wine has proven exceptionally popular among Asian buyers from Japan, Taiwan and, in recent years, mainland China. Its comparatively high price, “exotic” nature, and sweeter flavor make it suitable both for gift-giving and consumption, and as such Canadian wineries have seen sales rise to $4.3 million in the Chinese market in the first eight months of this year, up from $2.5 million in 2007.
Looking to increase their physical presence in China, more Canadian wineries and wine dealers are setting up shop there. This weekend, a group of three Canadian businessmen opened Maple Leaf Wines in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Specializing in Ontario producer Pelee Island Winery’s table and ice wines, Maple Leaf plans to expand to other Ontario wines in the future. From The Standard:
The hugely-populated country, with more than 1.3 billion people, has a growing middle class hungry for luxury items from abroad, said Jamie Slingerland, director of viticulture with Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“China is massive for us right now,” Slingerland said. “It’s massive.”
Pillitteri has been shipping wine to China for more than a decade. The major wine exporter ships 40% of its annual 60,000 case production abroad. About 60 to 75% of Pillitteri’s exports — more than 14,000 cases — are sent to seven Chinese provinces and 120 stores annually, Slingerland said.
While Zhengzhou may sound like an odd choice for a Canadian wine merchant, it’s important to keep in mind that second- and third-tier cities of its size (population: 7.4 million) are a prime destination for major luxury brands, hungry to tap a growing number of nouveau riche residents.