It’s time to uncork a bottle of Châteaux du Shandong. British wine lovers will get a taste of China’s vineyards after Berry Bros and Rudd became the first UK retailer to give rising wine power a permanent place on its shelves.
The famous St James’s wine merchant, established in 1698, will offer four bottles from China, now the world’s eighth largest producer of wines.
The wines, from Changyu, part of the Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Co based in Shandong, northeast China, include a red Chateau Changyu Moser blended from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, said to be typical of France’s Bordeaux region. The 2008 Chateau Changyu Moser XV from Ningxia will sell for at £39.
Three sweet icewines made from frozen grapes, the Gold, Blue and Black Label from Liaoning, will retail for £19, £35 and £65 respectively.
“It was only a matter of time before it (China) entered the international wine market,” said Mark Pardoe, Berry’s buying director. “This is a first step towards serious international recognition.”
Chinese consumers already drink over 1.6 billion bottles of wine annually, a figure forecast to grow by a further 1 billion by 2015.
China is the second biggest buyer of fine Bordeaux by volume, behind Germany, helping to sustain the global market for Bordeaux and Burgundy during the economic downturn.
But Changyu has become the world’s tenth largest winery, with annual sales of £457 million and China is increasingly bullish about exporting its own wines, which have won international acclaim. Last year, Chinese wineries won 18 medals at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Château Hansen, a 450-hectare winery near the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia, will be the first Chinese winery to exhibit at this year’s London International Wine Fair.
The icewines stocked by Berry Bros are sourced from the town of Beidianzi in Huanren, in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, one of the largest ice wine estates in the world.
The Decanter website found that “in terms of climate, altitude, topography and soil type, Beidianzi was found to be almost identical to the great icewine estates of Canada.”
Changyu plans to open a £620 million “wine city” in Yantai, Shandong by 2016, which will house a research institute, wine production facilities, vineyards and its own “European-style village”.
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, with a real will to get things done, so the time felt right to take an early temperature of the water.”
Last year, Waitrose tested UK oenophiles’ openness to Chinese wines by stocking the £9.99 Chateau Changyu Cabernet Gernischt as a special promotion.