Queen's Wine Merchant To Sell Chinese Tipple
The Queen's wine merchant has announced it will be the first UK retailer to permanently stock Chinese wines.
The 314-year-old firm of Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) said it would sell four wines from a state-controlled chateau alongside the finest offerings from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
BBR, which has royal warrants from both the monarch and Prince Charles, is to market bottles from China's Chateau Changyu.
They include cabernet, merlot and so-called ice wines made from frozen grapes.
BBR buying director Mark Pardoe 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.
"And its huge geographical size and range of climates mean that there must be regions capable of producing good wine."
As a result, China is now expected to become the world's sixth biggest producer within three years.
On a per capita basis the Chinese barely touch wine, but they still manage to down 1.6 billion bottles a year through the sheer size of the population.
Its drinkers are now expected to increase consumption by 62.5%, downing another one billion bottles annually, by 2015.
Mr Pardoe added: "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."
The chateau has been headhunting top talent abroad, seeking wine and brandy oenologists, stating it prefers applicants with experience in the Bordeaux and Cognac regions of France.
With wine now seen as a status symbol by the burgeoning middle class, consumption of top Claret in China is now ranked second in the world, behind Germany.
Although Waitrose temporarily trialled Chinese wine last year, BBR says this is the first time a UK retailer has sold it on a permanent basis.
In 1997 Changyu Group restructured the assets of its four wine-making divisions and five other branches for a flotation on the Shanghai exchange as the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company Ltd.
It issued 140 million state-owned shares and 88 million B shares, becoming the first listed winery in China.