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December 14, 2008


Wine From China


In May, Berry Brothers & Rudd, England’s oldest independent wine merchant, dropped an oenological bombshell. In its “Future of Wine Report,” it predicted that in 50 years, China would be the world’s leading wine producer. What’s more, noting China’s favorable soil, low labor costs and soaring domestic demand for wine, the authors concluded that China has “all the essential ingredients to make fine wine to rival the best of Bordeaux.”

Don’t laugh just yet. China is already the world’s sixth-largest producer, with some 400 wineries. And it has been making grape-based wine for at least 2,000 years. True, most Chinese wine today is unremarkable, even undrinkable to Western palates. And reports abound of counterfeiting and labeling imported wine as Chinese. But China’s 1.3 billion citizens are developing a taste for wine, which experts say will drive better winemaking. Producers are taking steps to raise quality, too, bringing in wine consultants from Australia, France and other regions. “None of us were drinking wines from Chile or Argentina 50 years ago,” notes Bartholomew Broadbent, an importer and co-owner of Dragon’s Hollow, a winery in China’s northern-central Ningxia Hui region. “Why not China?”

Grace Vineyards, a Shanxi winery complete with a French-style chateau, points to the country’s potential. The Grace Chairman’s Reserve, a Bordeaux-style blend, sells for $60 or more a bottle.



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