Good as gold: Chateau d'Yquem
With Château Lafite's dominance of the high-end Bordeaux market in China slowly slipping away, as premium Burgundy producers and Bordeaux rivals like Château Latour fight for face time with Chinese wine collectors and VIPs, the top-tier Bordeaux Sauternes, Château d’Yquem is quietly becoming something of a "must-have" for some of the more fashionable drinkers in Shanghai and Beijing. Mostly owned by French luxury powerhouse LVMH Moet Hennessy -- which is seeing huge success among its wine and spirits brands in China -- Château d’Yquem is characterized by its complexity, sweetness and relative scarcity. (The chateau produces only around 65,000 bottles per year, compared to the roughly 420,000 bottles produced annually by Château Lafite.)
According Gary Boom, founder and managing director of fine wine merchants the Bordeaux Index, “Our network of contacts in China are telling us d’Yquem has suddenly become highly fashionable." Noting the similarities between previous trends in the Asian wine and spirits market, Boom added that Yquem has "become the drink of choice – much in the way that Dom Perignon Rose was in Japan 15 to 20 years ago.”
So what's behind the sudden popularity of Yquem? More than anything, it may simply boil down to four factors: its exotic French name, the fact that it's from Bordeaux (a region even the least educated Chinese wine drinker knows), its lower production volume and higher price, and its sweetness. Yquem's drinkability makes it a draw for nightclub show-offs and its high price and scarcity makes it a draw for businesspeople eager to seal a deal with a bottle of high-profile French wine. Yquem has also seen a boost in visibility lately simply because it was barred from import from China for so long. As Peter Lunzer, Chief Executive and CIO of Lunzer Wine Investments, said earlier this year:
"Chateau d'Yquem is probably the best known of the sweet Bordeaux wines which have not been allowed to be officially imported into China due to their large amounts of natural， residual sugar when compared to other wines which exceeded the limit set by the Chinese authorities. However, now these rules have been relaxed, we believe that demand for these sweet Bordeaux wines will skyrocket."
With imports of sweet Bordeaux wines only coming into China since regulations were relaxed last September, this is an area we'll probably see rapidly growing in visibility in coming years. Chinese drinkers, who often enjoy sweeter wines -- a fact that hasn't been lost on Canadian icewine producers or sparkling wine producers from around the world -- are quick to latch on to trends in the wine market, and Yquem's golden hue and auspicious Chinese name, dījīn (滴金) hit all the right notes.