China Wine Press: Baijiu, smugglers, China vs Britain, wine auctions

All the wine world’s a stage and China keeps getting bigger roles. China Wine Press looks at media coverage of that drama, with each item preceded by an inane comment from me — just to keep things real. By J. Boyce


(So much for Lafite in my Chinese New Year stocking)

Hurun Research Institute has released the results of its interviews with over 500 Chinese millionaires and when it comes to giving gifts, only one beverage brand ranks in the top 10Moutai. The report, in its eighth year, says that domestic spirit trails only Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermes and Chanel. In terms of value, Hurun listed Moutai in fourth and fellow spirit brand Wuliangye in seventh:

Moutai and Wuliangye, the two most famous Chinese baijiu brands, make the Top Ten of the World’s Most Valuable Luxury Brands for the first time with brand values of US$12 billion and US$7 billion respectively. The Moutai brand is now worth more than household names in the West such as Mercedes-Benz and Chanel. A bottle of its best-selling liquor ‘53 Degrees Feitian Moutai’ now retails at over RMB 2000 (equivalent to USD 320 / Euro 240 / GBP 200).

See: Chinese baijiu brand Moutai now world’s fourth most valuable luxury brand


(Guess who’s teaching the prison’s wine appreciation class?)

Li Qian of Shanghai Daily reports that a man has received a life term for “illegally bringing 70,000 bottles worth 45 million yuan (US$7.128 million) to China’s mainland.”

Sun Xitai was convicted of forging invoices and import contracts to evade import duties of 20.3 million yuan between January 2004 and December 2009, the Beijing Times reported yesterday….

Sun, aged 62, altered the name, details and price of luxury wines transported from France, Britain and Hong Kong, stating they were cheap alcohol, the court said.

Meanwhile, Clifford Lo at South China Morning Post writes about 44 people arrested for smuggling goods between Hong Kong and mainland China (story here; registration required). According to the article, “Officers seized goods, such as mobile phones, tablet computers and bottles of wine, worth 2.3 million Hong Kong dollars.”

See: Life sentence in biggest wine smuggling case. Also check out this post by Bordeaux watcher Nick Stephens.


(If only they had clinged to Hong Kong longer, they’d still be fifth)

News agency AFP reports that China has nudged Britain out of fifth place in terms of wine consumption, according to data from Vinexpo and International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR). Obviously, we are talking about total volume, not per capita. The China figure includes Hong Kong, a substantial market in and of itself. From the report:

US consumers were the world’s top wine drinkers in 2011, while China displaced Britain to become the fifth largest wine consumer, according to new research released on Thursday.

US consumers downed the equivalent of 3.7 billion bottles of wine, while China including Hong Kong drank 1.9 billion bottles, according to data released by trade show Vinexpo and International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR).

Old World wine drinkers in Italy, France and Germany clung to second, third and fourth places respectively but the New World and the Far East caught the limelight, showed the study of 114 consumer markets and 28 producer countries.

See: US is biggest wine consumer, China joins top five


(I’m generally happy with a tie)

In article about a recent wine Hong Kong wine auction, Stephen Quinn of China Daily explains how sometimes you win:

For example, I bought 19 bottles of Chateau de Fargues sauternes for $1,029 ($54 a bottle). Some of these wines were made in the mid 1970s and are rare. Over the past few years the average price per bottle of the 1975 Chateau de Fargues sauternes was $149, though it has just peaked and it will be the first I drink.

And sometimes you lose:

[In 2010] I bought cases of 20-year-old Hunter Valley semillon and 18-year-old chardonnay. Wines like these with pedigree can last for generations, but only if they have been stored well. This wine had not. Because it was an old wine, the auction house would not refund my money. The wine went down the sink.

See: Wine auctions a bit like gambling — The house usually wins

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