By Jim Boyce
Nicolas Billot-Grima has made wine in China for over a quarter-century: he started at Huadong in Shandong province in the late 1980s, helped open Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard in Hebei Province in the 1990s, and now consults on several winery operations and promotes the Jurade de Saint-Emilion in China. I recently met him for brunch in Beijing and have included below a few excerpts from our talk.
On claims consumers only like red wines:
That’s total bullshit. Chinese consumers are open-minded. If you explain your product well, they’ll try it. White wine is good for beginners because its less tannic, it’s fruitier, and it’s easier to adapt to. White wines are also more versatile with Chinese food.
On his current projects:
I’m working on a small vineyard in Huairou, in northern Beijing, but we are still waiting for the licence. The owners planted their vineyards in 2009, six hectares of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, with a little bit of Marselan.
On hosting Chinese VIPs in France:
I have a six-hectare vineyard in France, with 2.5 hectares of caves in the mountains. We mature our wines in barrels and store our bottles there. The caves are 12 degrees [Celsius] and 75 percent humidity all year around. And we sometimes have migrating rabbits stay there. We also have our own natural spring.
We’ve brought many important visitors to the big chateaux — Lafite, Latour and so on — and they always prefer my place! The mayor of Qingdao said it’s because I have the best fengshui, due to the mountain and the spring.
And marathon runners, too:
We had 70 people from China visit this summer before they did the Medoc marathon. We had a big party in my cave. We had foie gras, plus my Cremant and red wines, and much more. It was fun.
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