Price trumps product: The wines of China producer Chateau Junding

By Jim Boyce

I wrote Monday about Chinese boutique wineries leveraging their local know-how to target moneyed customers at home. Case in point: Chateau Junding.

This relatively new Shandong operation includes spectacular facilities and surroundings, is backed by Great Wall wines producer COFCO and a sophisticated marketing campaign, and targets spenders who have enough cash to buy expensive imported wines. Take a look at these prices:

  • Oriental White 2007 – RMB349 / USD51
  • Glory White 2006 – RMB729 / USD107
  • Oriental Red 2006 – RMB549 / USD81
  • Glory Red 2005 – RMB1099 / USD162
  • Santa Grace Red 2005 – RMB1699 / USD250

What does the consumer who splashes out RMB1699 get from Santa Grace Red? If the one I tried is any indication, something around an entry-level New World wine, but with a weaker finish and a heavier bottle (among the weightiest I have seen). While some wines had interesting aromas – grapefruit and tropical fruit on the Oriental White, for example – the most consistent features were a cloying fruitiness and very high prices.

I would like to retry these wines, as our small glasses limited our ability to swirl and sniff, but don’t expect the canyon between cost and quality to narrow much given these seem to hail from “the higher the price, the better it must be” school of marketing. Actually, I would like to retry these wines, with fellow consumers, in a blind tasting against entry-level Australian, Chilean and Chinese wines, and see if anyone agrees they are worth six to 28 times more than a bottle of, say entry-level Grace Vineyard.

By the way, in a that’s Shanghai article, Bob Wise recounts a visit to Chateau Junding and a talk with one of the winery’s salespeople. “China has no lack of rich people,” he told Wise, “but these people don’t know how to spend their money. Here, we are showing them how.”

Note: Here are the grape variety breakdowns of the fives wines I tried:

  • Oriental White 2007 – 100% Riesling
  • Glory White 2006 – 100% Chardonnay
  • Oriental Red 2006 – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot
  • Glory Red 2005 – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz
  • Santa Grace Red 2005 – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz, 5% Merlot

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