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Yao Ming winery sees white wine potential in China

The California winery owned by Chinese ex-basketball star Yao Ming could follow its premium Napa Crest launch in China with a white wine for younger drinkers.

Yao Ming, thought to be the first Chinese celebrity to put his name to a wine brand in the country, has always wanted to produce a white wine because his wife prefers white over red, according to group winemaker Tom Hinde.

‘We’ve got a few ideas on the board, and a white wine is something that’s on the board,’ Hinde told decanter.com, ahead of a tasting with wine journalists in Beijing.

He added that producing a white wine for the Chinese market also makes sense from a business perspective, despite the pre-eminence of red varietals in a country that counts the colour as lucky.

‘I think the actual consumers would prefer a white wine with some cuisine, and I think consumers will reach for it in the years to come,’ he said, adding that younger wine drinkers and women, in particular, could develop a stronger taste for white varietals.

For now, Yao Family Wines is focused on its recently launched 2010 vintage Napa Crest, released at the relatively modest price of around RMB530 (US$87) per bottle and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes.

The launch marks a comedown in price from Yao Ming’s initial offerings in China, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at RMB1,775 per bottle and the flagship Yao Ming Family Reserve at around RMB6,000.

Hinde said the decision to launch Napa Crest reflects a long-term plan to cover varying price-points in China, rather than a reaction to the new government’s clampdown on officials’ expenditure and slower economic growth over the past year.

‘Our consumers are their own independent business people. We haven’t seen a drastic dip in sales,’ Hinde said. The initial Napa Crest release was 3,000 cases.

Pernod Ricard distributes for Yao Family Wines in China.

Written by Chris Mercer

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