By Jim Boyce | Every time I hear someone claim Chinese consumers will never accept screw caps, I remember similar statements about coffee (Starbucks, anyone?), cheese (pizza is ubiquitous) and cold foods such as ice cream (widely available and enjoyed).
It’s also befuddling because we see a small but growing niche of consumers who are curious about wine and buying it based on taste rather than status.
Bottles with screw caps offer many benefits. To name three: they need no equipment for opening, they are easy to re-seal and, in a country where wine transportation and storage conditions are not always ideal, I find they tend to mean less spoilage.
It also seems a growing number of people like them. For example, Claudia Masueger of CHEERS, which has 45 shops in China and attracts those taste-based buyers, says the vast majority of her clients don’t care about closures. Whether the wine is under cork or screw cap, they simply want something tasty. And as e-commerce continues to increase choice for consumers, and decrease their need for the at-times stereotyped options found in brick-and-mortar outlets, we should continue to see people explore new grapes, new styles and new closures.
Anyway, I thought about all this last week when I opened one of the older Chinese New Year wines from Grace Vineyard in Shanxi, sealed under screw cap. I expected it to be weathered by now but both I and a friend found it fruity and enjoyable.
That same night, I also heard some good news: one of the China’s top producers, Kanaan in Ningxia, plans to start using screw caps this year.
“Our new bottling machine will arrive around January of 2018,” says GM Wang Fang. “We plan to bottle our Riesling and off-dry white wine for sure.”
Fang is also considering it for the entry-level red, Wild Pony.
This is especially welcome given Kanaan’s wines are well-received, not too pricey (about rmb150) and the kind of thing you might find yourself with, say, in Beijing rush hour traffic without an opener. It also seems appropriate given that Kanaan’s off-dry white was created as something consumer friendly, as something Wang thought her friends might like.