Recent media reports have stoked fears that insatiable Chinese demand for wine may propel a global wine shortage, but China may actually be poised to start exporting more of its own vintages to the rest of the world.
According to a recent report by The Drinks Business, two “major” UK supermarkets are currently in negotiations with Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser to stock bottles from China’s Château Changyu Moser XV, which will add to a growing number of UK retailers stocking Changyu’s varieties.
The news was revealed in an interview with Moser, who has been consulting for Changyu for seven years in exchange for the sale of his Grüner Veltliner in China. According to him, Chinese wines are slowly gaining in popularity in the UK:
“We’ve had a very positive response, which is exciting. I think the timing is right – we would never have been able to do this five years ago,” Moser told db. […]
“Selling Chinese wine in the UK is never a cheap proposition as they can sell every drop they make in China so don’t need us for business,” he said.
This development is not without precedent. Prior to this announcement, UK supermarket chains Berry Bros & Rudd and Waitrose both stocked Changyu’s wine thanks to deals that were also negotiated by Moser. Sales at Berry Bros & Rudd appear to have been successful, since the retailer is coming back for more. After it announced in March this year that it would be selling four wines from Château Changyu, it has decided to launch a Bordeaux-style wine called Moser Family Cabernet next January, which will sell for about £20 a bottle. The store originally announced that it would stock a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Ningxia and three ice wines from Liaoning, which sell for up to £65 ($98) a bottle.
Moser states that the wines currently under discussion would retail for “at least £8-9” a bottle, placing them into the category of Changyu wine that hit Waitrose locations a little over one year ago, where the brand’s Cabernet Gernischt went for £7.99 ($12). Although these prices certainly aren’t at the high end, Moser asserts that the quality of the wine has been increasing since he started working with the company:
“I’ve seen a big quality leap in the Château’s wines in the last few years – it’s not rocket science, I just introduced processes like temperature controlled fermentation and lowered the yields from 30 to 10 tonnes per hectare.
“We manage to make reds that come in at just 12% abv but retain all their flavour. Our Cabernets are where Bordeaux used to be 20 years ago: lighter in colour with less alcohol and sugar.
“They have a lovely pure fruit expression and spicy aromas. There’s a signature spice I’ve found in Chinese wines, which I really like,” he added.
The massive European-style Château Changyu Moser XV, which is named after Moser, was completed in August this year. Featuring an 800-barrel cellar, technologically advanced bottling lines, and even a museum charting Changyu’s progress since it was established in 1892, the site is a massive testament to rising hopes in China’s homegrown wine market. Changyu is not only China’s oldest and largest winery, but is also the tenth largest in the world. With an eye on competitors like Great Wall and small boutique wineries, the company is looking to expand both in China and abroad. In addition to its plans to open a massive “wine city” in Yantai, Shandong, the company is looking to make foreign acquisitions. In late October, it announced that it has acquired Cognac trader Roullet-Fransac in France for an undisclosed sum.
While Moser appears to be the main catalyst in providing Chinese wine with a spot on UK shelves, we may see more global exports in the future from additional Chinese vineyards as they gain more global recognition. Chinese wines have taken home a significant number of prizes from Decanter’s World Wine Awards for two years in a row, which may eventually help to battle skepticism about their quality, which remains a major obstacle to further distribution.