China a net exporter of wine?
 August 12 2011, 12:20

Carlo SchiopettoMany wineries look to China today as a solution either to their problems of overproduction or as a potential market for their upscale labels, but few see that the Middle Kingdom is also a major producer in its own right, bottling in some way, shape or form enough wines to satisfy 90% of domestic demand. Yes, for the moment little of this has the prestige of Lafite, Romanée-Conti or Gaja, but then even those 'brands' are not as old as many people might think. Tradition is often merely being a step ahead of the Joneses. 

Given its economic development and interest in the finest things the world produces, whether automobiles, clothing or wine, China will probably be the most important market for certain elite items for years to come. That said, it has already - unbeknown to itself - built an infrastructure around the world that will in the years to come develop China's reputation abroad at a new level. Those are the thousands and thousands of Chinese restaurants run by emigrants. As you see here, even in the small town of Baldwin - population 1,894 - in the wheat fields of central Kansas there is a family of six running 'Joy Garden'. 

Only a generation ago, most Italian wine was consumed primarily within a few kilometres of where it was produced, but there were Italian restaurants everywhere in the world. Yes, most were cheap pizzerias that served little or no wine and, even if they did, it was mostly an inexpensive quaff from their host country. Today, there are trendy, more upscale Italian restaurants almost everywhere and they have become great ambassadors for a myriad of Italian wines that are now exported to the four corners of the world.

For every one Italian restaurant, though, there are ten Chinese eateries. Most customers do not even know that China makes wine and thus drink only jasmine tea when they go out  for a meal, but if every one of those restaurants were to offer only a red and a white Chinese wine by the glass, China would soon be a net exporter - not importer - of wine. When this happens, and it is only a matter of time, the export market will then be able to develop a platform for estates like Grace or Silver Heights that are today at the cutting edge of Chinese wine production. They, though, are only the tip of an iceberg that will gradually emerge as the Chinese become more proud of their own wines and prefer them even to the finest claret. As in Italy, California or Australia, this day will come. It is only a question of when.  Comments


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