By Jim Boyce
“I’m sure, based on what I’ve seen during the past eight years in China, that the next ten years will belong to Chinese wines.”
– Lenz Moser, opening ceremony, Changyu Moser XV
Winery Changyu Moser XV held its launch party on Sunday in China’s promising wine region of Ningxia. The project involves Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser, the “XV” in the name indicating he is of the fifteenth generation of his family to make wine. Moser, who first visited China eight years ago, answered a few questions after leading a tasting of his wines with more than 100 Changyu distributors after the launch party.
On if the Moser Changyu XV wines express a Ningxia terroir:
In a sense, yes, because they are capturing the region. The main thing is the sugar and the phenolic ripeness go hand in hand in Ningxia as opposed to many other New World regions. Not to single anyone out, but in Napa Valley, sugar ripeness is always faster. Here in Ningxia, it’s all natural.
On the initial wines from Changyu Moser XV:
We have set the bar high with our first wines. We just did a live tasting and I was really impressed to see the wines show so nicely. There is still a lot of work ahead but at least there is something respectable on the table, a modern red wine with lower alcohol that still gives you freshness.
On how the winery can compete abroad given increasing labor costs, the operation’s remoteness and other factors in China:
Labor is only one factor in the costing of wine. And yes, there is a bit more labor cost now, but even if it’s 20 percent aggregate, it’s not that much. Mind you, we’re competing with Europe, with France, Germany and Italy, where labor costs are higher by a factor of ten.
Why is wine so expensive in China? Because China is a net importer. Every drop produced in this country is consumed in this country.
The problem with exports is that Changyu [can sell everything at home and] has to sacrifice some of its revenue to be represented in the [international] market. Changyu has given us a favorable pricing so our our lowest-level wine will be available for six Euros. Even at that level, it will still be a premium wine [given the average spend per bottle in Germany, for example, is less than six Euros].
On where the the flagship wine will be sold, in addition to current client Berry Bros. & Rudd in England:
In Switzerland, we are talking to Globus Department Store, which is like Harrod’s but with a wine department that is second to none. In Germany, we are extremely proud that as soon as we get more wine we will be in KaDeWe Department Store, the Harrod’s of Germany but with a better food and wine department.
We also have a six-euro wine you have not tasted yet. It took a while to get the quality there. We’re going to work with supermarkets like Delhaize in Belgium and Waitrose in England and with Castel in France.
During the tasting with the distributors, Moser said the wine has been a success thus far with Berry Bros. & Rudd. The initial shipment of 600 bottles is already gone, he said, adding, “I’m surprised the ‘stiff Brits’ fell in love with this wine. It sold out.”
He also told the distributors that Ningxia’s advantages include its elevation (1100 meters), annual hours of sunshine (3000), and a growing season that saw little rain but enough available water for irrigation. He said relatively warm days and cool nights allowed for good acidity in the grapes and, in turn, fresh wines without an excessive of alcohol.
His opinion is that, “In ten years, the top-level wineries will be organic“. This was good news for the winery, he added, as the grapes for the flagship wine come from a 10-year-old, 66-hectare organic vineyard.
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