Berry Bros and Rudd has announced it is the first major UK retailer to give Chinese wines a permanent place on its shelves.
The eminent London wine merchant may not be the first UK retailer to stock Chinese wines – Waitrose carried the £9.99 Chateau Changyu Cabernet Gernischt as a special promotion last year – but it is the first to permanently stock a Chinese range.
The wines, also from Changyu, are the 2008 Chateau Changyu Moser XV from Ningxia, at £39 and three ice wines, the Gold, Blue and Black Label from Liaoning, at £19, £35 and £65 respectively.
Mark Pardoe MW, Berry Bros and Rudd’s wine buying director said, ‘China is already the eighth largest producer of wine in the world so it was only a matter of time before it entered the international market.
‘Until now the country’s focus has been on its volume-driven domestic market, and other export efforts have been based on external investment. Changyu’s strategy represents a change, with home-grown investment in partnership with international expertise, with a real will to get things done, so the time felt right to take an early temperature of the water.’
As far as Waitrose is concerned, its own foray into Chinese wine was a success, the Cabernet Gernischt selling out ‘quickly, much faster than we expected, and we were thrilled with our customers’ reaction to this new and unknown wine,’ a spokesperson said.
According to its website Changyu was the 10th largest wine producer in the world in 2007, with sales of US$695m.
Last year the Chinese press revealed it was building a ‘wine city’ in Shandong province which would cover an area of 413ha at a cost of some 6bn yuan (US$943m).
Changyu also has joint ventures with French company Castel in half a dozen enormous chateaux, including Chateau Changyu-Castel in Shandong, some of which are complete and some nearing completion.
The icewines stocked by BBR come from one of the largest icewine estates in the world in the town of Beidianzi in Huanren, in the northeastern province of Liaoning. In terms of climate, altitude, topography and soil type, Beidianzi was found to be almost identical to the great icewine estates of Canada.
The Château Changyu Vidal Ice Wine 2008 won Silver at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2011.
Over the last few years Chinese wine has shone at the Decanter World Wine Awards, with estates such as Chateau Reifeng-Auzias and Domaine Helan winning regional and international trophies, and other wineries winning a clutch of medals.
China is now the eighth largest producer of wine in the world and predicted to be the sixth largest by 2016. Chinese consumers already drink over 1.6bn bottles of wine annually, which is forecast to grow by a further 1 billion by 2015. China is the second biggest buyer of fine Bordeaux by volume, behind Germany.
Written by Adam Lechmere