Red Wine Obsession in China

April 25, 2008

Recently when I was on a stop over in Singapore, I bought some portwine at one of the DSF duty free shops in the airport. The woman behind the counter was very friendly and we chatted along. I asked her which wines were her best sellers. She answered that they were grand cru wines from Bordeaux up 1000 S$ per bottle and that they were a much sought after commodity by tourist from Mainland China.

So it came as no surprise when I read the recent news about a sale of 27 bottles of French red wine by an anonymous Beijing based billionaire for the record price of about US$ 500.000 by the London based Antique Wine Company. The wines were various vintages of reds from Romanee Conti in Burgundy. According to the Antique Wine Company it was not bought for investment but to be drank. This sale is lauded for it’s indication that wine tastes in China are becoming more complex. The time of simply buying Bordeaux wines seems to be over. The broadening of wine education and appreciation is a good thing also for Australian wine producers. The recent large sale of Shiraz wines by Hanging Rock Winery is a good example for that.

A wine bar in a hotel in Beijing

During a recent trip to China I learned that red wine can be drank in new, “innovative” ways some might call it. Next time you are in China order “Red wine set menue” and you will be served with a good bottle of red Bordeaux wine, a large glass with ice and two cans of Sprite. You mix it together and you are right.

Many wine drinkers heart may sink at the prospects of being invited by a Chinese friend to this type of “blending” red wine. If the cheap mass wines are being mercerized by this technique that might be a good thing. For boutique wine producers like myself it is a rather shocking prospect that my elegant Two Hills Merlot could be treated that way.

“Gan bei” (cheers) as the Chinese say.