Is China taking over the wine world?
Scanning the headlines this week in the wine press you might think so!
Decanter reports that Chinese entrepreneur Jin Shan Zhang has purchased a Chateau in Entre-deux-Mers, Central Bordeaux, where he intends to open an upscale Chinese restaurant, and a hotel and golf course. He describes the project as a ‘Chinese-French cultural exchange’.
Only last month we learned that China had overtaken the UK to become the fifth largest wine consuming nation. And The Drinks Business tells us that giants Moet Hennessy have purchased a vineyard in China, where they intend to make a still red wine for the domestic market. While this is not the first time they have dabbled in the Chinese market, it clearly shows that they believe there is a great business opportunity. And it is not just red wine that the Chinese are consuming. Although red wine is dominant, white wine consumption rose 19% with rapid growth predicted.
Those of you who read this blog regularly will know how important the Chinese market has become. Their desire for Bordeaux – drinking it, rather than stashing it away, has made wine the alternative investor’s choice. We also know that Chinese wines are sneaking onto supermarket shelves here in the UK; just a couple for now, but does this seem like a nation of people who do things by halves? We can expect a lot more, as China is now the world’s 7th largest producer of wine. A Chinese red wine recently won a Decanter award in the Bordeaux varietals category seeing off rivals from France in a blind tasting. And I would be the first to admit, I would never have thought that would be possible!
And there’s more. Chateau Latour-Laguens was the first Bordeaux estate to be purchased by the Chinese back in 2008, and there are at least five others now. This is a population that has found its place in the wine world. The Chinese want to absorb themselves utterly in their new passion, to the extent where they not only buy Chateaux from the Bordelaise but they are actually creating Chateaux of their own that in style resemble their Bordeaux counterparts. This is flattery in its most sincere form, surely?
So… with their cleverly replicated Chateaux and ever-improving wine, have we anything to fear from China’s ever increasing influence on the fine wine world? The answer is no. In truth, we can’t help but envy China for their new hedonism, for their absolute dedication to embracing their recently-discovered passion for fine wine, and for their commitment to making the industry that excluded them for so long their own. China doesn’t have the climate to make red wines that rival Bordeaux’s finest any more than we do in the UK, but they are still trying to do it, and the Decanter award puts them one step closer. Even though many producers would scoff at the award, there were over 500 entrants from Bordeaux in the category, making it no small achievement. The Chinese are not looking to take over the wine world, they just want a share of what they have been missing. And to have a crack at it themselves. And why not? So far, so good. The fine wine industry has a lot to thank China for, and it doesn’t look like their campaign will lose momentum any time soon.