Bordeaux 2010 En Primeur coverage from Decanter.com

Sauternes and other dessert wines legal for the Chinese market

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  • Thursday 16 September 2010

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) announced this week that Sauternes and other sweet wines can be exported to China officially.

Pierre and Jean-Pierre Meslier of Raymond Lafon

Sauternes and other sweet wines can now be legally exported to China, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) announced this week.

With much talk about the Chinese market for Bordeaux, one important segment has until now not been officially permitted in China: Sauternes and Barsac.

The renowned Bordeaux sweet wines – and other dessert wines – contain more than 250 mg of sulphur per litre, more than the limit Chinese authorities established for all wines.

The change is the latest in a series of rule modifications which began in 2005, according to OIV scientist Jean-Claude Ruf. That was when China agreed regulations that restricted wine to a beverage made exclusively from 100% grape juice, Ruf told Decanter.com.

‘Before that, China allowed “wine” to be made with only 50% grape juice.’

Other outstanding issues include additives to wine. Until now, the Chinese had a 250 mg limit per litre for all wines – ‘which has been the international norm for dry wines; not for Sauternes,’ Ruf explained. All wines in China will now be required to include the label ‘contains sulphites,’ according to the OIV.

OIV President Yves Bernard met with Chinese agriculture ministry officials this past August. ‘We did not specifically talk about sulphite levels,’ he told decanter.com, ‘but re-examining the dossier probably led to their decision.’

Bernard said that China may join the OIV, an intergovernmental organisation which promotes international harmonisation of existing practices and standards to improve the conditions for producing and marketing vine and wine products.

‘But they [Chinese officials] have been hesitant; I reassured them that the OIV is intergovernmental and works on a consensus basis.’

Michel Garat, director of Chateau Bastor Lamontage in Sauternes, told decanter.com a full pallet of his second wine, Les Remparts de Bastor Lamontagne 2006, was confiscated and destroyed in Shanghai by customs agents earlier this spring. ‘This [change in regulations] is good news,’ he said.

At Sauternes first growth Château d’Yquem, director Pierre Lurton said the chateau's parent company LVMH already 'has a good business network in place in China' and they were making plans to market the wine there.

Also under consideration, Lurton said, was an Yquem ambassador for China.


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