Dragon's Eye hits the spot as world discovers Chinese wines

While grape varieties such as Dragon's Eye and Ju Feng Noir may be a mystery to British shoppers - and most experts - Chinese wine could soon be on the lips of drinkers across the world.

A leading forecaster has predicted China will make more wine than Australia by the middle of the decade, with annual production rising from 72million cases to 128million by 2014 - a leap of 77 per cent. Over the same period Australia, home to Jacob's Creek and Penfolds brands, will see a fall from 127million to 121million cases, according to the London-based International Wine and Spirits Research, which produced the figures for the Vinexpo fair.

The achievement would be extraordinary given that China did not even count among the top 10 wine makers in the world in 2006.

While its production is overwhelmingly drunk within the country and has a poor reputation among oenophiles, the country's vast landmass and varying topography and climate make it a potential viticultural superpower.

Three years ago Britain's oldest wine merchants Berry Bros predicted China would become the world's biggest wine producer by 2058, saying: "With the right soil, low labour costs and soaring domestic demand, China is set to take the world of wine by storm."

Increasing affluence within the People's Republic has stoked demand for home-grown production, while a new ultra-wealthy class has been bidding for the finest bottles. Hong Kong has become the world's third-largest auction centre after New York and London, and an auction of top-end French wine by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber at the weekend raised $5.6m, well above the estimate of $4.1m.

To cater for the growing number of domestic enthusiasts, the French publisher Marie Claire plans to launch a monthly Chinese-language edition of one of the world's top wine magazines, Revue du Vin de France, in the spring. Meanwhile Dynasty Fine Wines, one of the country's biggest producers which is part-owned by French liquor giant Remy Cointreau, is shopping for vineyards. "We have visited more than 20 wineries, and the ones in France and Australia are likely to be on our acquisition list," Bai Zhisheng, its chairman, told China Daily newspaper. "I want the best quality of the Old World vintages and the production scales of New World wines at the same time."

China has thousands of native grape species, such as Dragon's Eye, but foreign investors have introduced cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. The industry's development has not been without a hiccup: in December, a number of wineries were shut and six people were arrested for adding banned chemicals to wine in Hebei province, China's "Bordeaux".

Richard Ehrlich, wine editor of Good Housekeeping, said: "The home market is developing and the Chinese are developing a taste for wine. Among the rich Chinese in Hong Kong, there's a well-developed market. But for everyday drinking they seem to be supplying their own needs, which may be a good thing because if they started buying up all the Beaujolais with their vast market there wouldn't be any left for the rest of us – or the price would double."

Wine production was spreading across the world into states such as China, India and Thailand, he said: the question was whether they could produce good quality wine for the international market.

"China is so vast that it's inevitable that there are going to be some areas that are good for making good quality wines, but whether the potential is fully developed won't be apparent for 10 or 15 or 20 or even 50 years because it takes a long time for a country to discover what it's got," he said.

Grape wall of China

* Although China does not have an international reputation for producing wine, wine-making has a long tradition in the country. Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence the Chinese were making wine in 212 BC.

* Wine production in China is concentrated in the north, in Shanxi, Hebei and Shandong provinces in the north-east, in Xinjiang province in the north-west and Yunnan province in the south.

* There are around 400 wineries. The three big domestic producers are Great Wall, Dynasty and Changyu Winery.

* While most grape varieties are derived from wild species, foreign investors have planted many western red varietals. Of those, Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for 40 per cent and Merlot and Cabernet france for 10 per cent, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine.

* China's wine production stood at 960,000 tons in 2009, up 27 per cent on the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us