By Jim Boyce
Writer James Halliday will announce the winners of the Wine Australia Awards today in Beijing. The winner in each of the four categories — retail; restaurants, bars, and hotels; writing and education; and overall contribution to “the growth of wine and of Australian wine in China” — will receive a ten-day wine study tour in Australia. (Apparently, drinking loads of wine from Down Under doesn’t count as a qualification.) Geoff Raby, Australia’s ambassador to China, hosted an informal dinner last night for Halliday, who will lead a wine master class today, and several of the winners. The awards are being presented on Australia’s national day (for ideas on how to celebrate it in Beijing, see this post).
Don St. Pierre, Jr, CEO of ASC Fine Wines. St. Pierre was cited for his leadership at ASC and the company’s role in terms of wine education, tastings, and events. For his part, St. Pierre cited the rapid growth of the China market. “If you look at where China was as a wine consumer five years ago, you’d never have believed it would now be Australia’s fourth biggest export market,” he said. To underscore the swift change in China, he cited his father, Don St. Pierre, Sr, who came here in 1986 to work at Beijing Jeep and found only one private car owner in the city. “Now China is the biggest car market in the world,” he said.
Restaurants, bars, and hotels
James Sing, owner and manager of Shanghai-based Kakadu, which focuses on Australian food and drink. Sing said that the rapidly blossoming restaurant scene in Shanghai in 2005 and 2006 meant he and his partners needed to find a niche: they decided on Australia and now provide customers with foods that range from lamb and beef to crocodile and emu as well as a drinks menu that aims to cover the country’s wine regions. “I’m from northern Queensland, so wine is what we do when we run out of beer,” he joked. Sing says Kakadu sources its wines from 18 distributors, sees significant numbers of expatriate and Chinese customers, and holds tasting events, the most recent of which drew 15o attendees.
Marcus Ford, national director for The Wine Way. Former restaurant manager at M on the Bund from 1999 to 2009, Ford said the scene has had a long struggle toward a focus on customers. “The culture in Shanghai for many years was that ‘we’ll try to sell you what we’re being paid to sell’.” He said that the success of M gave him leverage with wine distributors and that now, as a retailer, he enjoys giving customers the chance to try samples from the 16-unit machine at The Wine Way. While the operation is backed by Summergate, it includes wines from companies such as ASC and Torres, and brands such as De Bortoli, Grosset, and Henschke.
Writing and education
Dennis Lin: Known throughout the China wine scene, he was unable to attend the dinner last night but is slated to be at the official ceremony today.
I’ll have more on James Halliday’s comments on wine in future posts.
- China contest: Wine Australia Awards to provide four trips Down Under
- No worries: Australia targeting China wine market at every level
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