By Jim Boyce
In December, I tagged along on a research trip by Ma Huiqin, of China Agricultural University, and visited Yunnan Red Wine Company This post about Wu Kegang, the company’s CEO, is the first in a series about an area some call Shangri-La.
Bamboo, goldfish and peacocks, a tranquil pool and a sedate forest, a wine cellar and a spacious sun room, a wood-burning fireplace – these all made the mansion of Wu Kegang, CEO of Yunnan Red Wine, a relaxing spot to enjoy wine and talk about his company. I visited him with Ma Huiqin, a professor from China Agricultural University whose research ranges from the molecular biology of grapevines to the wine-buying preferences of Chinese consumers.
Wu first invested in Yunnan Red Wine in 1997. His initial stake was small–a few million RMB–but he has since taken the the company over and it has become his core business, he says.
Yunnan Red produces about 8,000 tons of wine per year. It organizes winery tours, experiments with varietals, is involved in related projects ranging from grape juice to cosmetics, and does intriguing localized marketing campaigns.
Personal reasons led him to invest, says Wu. “My wife is from Yunnan and her friend was involved in the wine company. I took it over so we would have a link to her home,” he says. “It helps that I like wine and my family likes wine. We plant, we harvest, we drink wine–my in-laws are very happy.”
The links to Yunnan are evident. Wu notes that Yunnan Red’s two main grape varieties, Crystal Dry and Rose Honey, were brought to China by missionaries. In honor of them, he is constructing a church on the winery’s grounds.
The winery is also a retreat for overnight visitors and offers an excellent menu of Yunnan food, live performances, and the opportunity to sample wines. One person at the company estimates that upward of 60,000 people visit the winery each year.
Next: An interview with Shan Shumin, general manager of Yunnan Red Wine Company.
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