A roundup of wine news coming out of China this week, from Moet's new joint venture that will see China-made bubbly hit the scene in coming years to suspicious wine sold at a plush restaurant in Guangdong Province.
Moet's new JV should be releasing China-made wines within three years
Moet Hennessy's JV To See High-End Sparkling Wine Produced In Mainland China
Decanter reported this week that Moet Hennessy has entered into a joint venture with the state-owned agricultural company Ningxia Nongken to produce premium sparkling wine in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.The initial agreement will see some 67 hectares (166 acres) of grapes planted in Ningxia, with the first bottles to be released in around three years. Speaking about the implications of this deal, Rex Yeung of Hong Kong-based mainland producer Dynasty Wines told the South China Morning Post that Moet will help "enhance the winemaking skill level in China. There will be more companies to educate the public...and develop the sparkling wine market in China." From Decanter:
LVMH, Moet’s holding company, already has a healthy market for Cognac and Champagne on the Chinese mainland: it is the company’s biggest market for Cognac and the Champagne market is growing every year.
We're curious to see how the Moet Hennissy-Nongken deal works out. As Jing Daily wrote last fall, champagne and sparkling wine producers have steadily been increasing their presence in China in recent years, despite the dominance of red wine there, in the hopes that the tastes and spending habits of younger drinkers and women in China will soon bring about a shift in consumption trends. If the wine turns out to be of high quality, joint ventures could be a way to speed up this development.
Latour Versus Lafite: Will The Tide Turn?
On May 27, Christie's Hong Kong will hold a must-see auction encompassing a century and a half of Chateau Latour. Coming amid China's ongoing love affair with all things Bordeaux (although Burgundy is catching up), the Christie's auction follows last autumn's Sotheby’s Hong Kong Lafite sale, at which a case of Chateau Lafite 1982 sold for $132,594, or $11,050 a bottle. As Bloomberg points out this week, all eyes are on the Latour auction, as observers are curious to see whether Lafite's dominant position in the Chinese luxury market will remain unshakable or if China's increasingly sophisticated wine collectors are starting to branch out. Via Bloomberg:
[T]his month’s 392-lot all-Latour sale looks like a bid to woo more Asian attention, and get higher prices, for this famously long-lived first growth. No one at Latour, of course, is admitting they want to nudge out Lafite.
“We’re going to China because we need to build knowledge and pass on messages,” Latour president Frederic Engerer said last month as we tasted 2010 barrel samples in the chateau’s light-filled tasting room. “Many people don’t know what to look for in older vintages.”
It’s nice that they want to educate the Chinese, but the real reason to show your face is to pull in bidders and hot-up a brand.
Given Chinese collector concerns about counterfeit wines, every bottle included in the Christie's Latour auction will bear a "Prooftag," a tracing tag that proves each item has been released directly from the cellar of Chateau Latour specifically for Christie's Hong Kong.
Longquan Seafood Restaurant
Restaurant In Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, Sells Suspicious Wine
In a strange story that touches on China's ongoing food safety problems, this week a restaurant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, was reported for selling suspicious red wine. According to the Chinese-language portal Tech-Food, diners at Longquan Seafood Restaurant (龙泉海鲜大酒) reported to a police hotline that their Great Wall Dry Red Wine was precipitating into a murky sludge "resembling soy sauce" in the glass. Journalists who traveled to the scene spoke to one of the diners, "Ms. Zhou," who said, "this restaurant sold us the bottle of wine, and after drinking several glasses we found that it was precipitating into a kind of black, soy sauce-looking thing." The precipitate was suspected of being tartaric acid, an acid naturally occurring in red wine.
The Longquan Seafood Restaurant issued an immediate apology to the disgruntled diners, and the night after the event, Wang Bin of Great Wall Wine Co. issued a statement in which he said the factory filters tartaric acid as much as possible, but occasionally some gets into the bottle. Wang was quick to add, however, that tartaric acid is harmless when ingested. ("对人无害")