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By Jim Boyce | Richard Li has joined the boutique wineries Domaine Franco-Chinois and Canaan in Hebei province as president after a 17-year stint with ASC Fine Wines. Li joined ASC in 2002 when it was run by co-founders Don St Pierre Sr and Don St Pierre Jr, and stayed on board after Suntory bought a majority share in 2009. As ASC vice president, his portfolio included brand marketing, supply chain management and open-market fine wines. In a staff announcement, CEO Yoshi Shibuya stated that Li will remain involved with ASC as an adviser to both it and Suntory Group.
Domaine Franco-Chinois (DFC) and Canaan are neighboring projects based just outside of Beijing. They are owned by Cher Wang, prominent in IT business circles, with Tom Hsu overseeing the founding of Canaan in 2006 and acquisition of DFC in 2010. DFC originally began as a joint Chinese-French scientific project in 1999, with China providing land and France providing vines and technology. DFC and Canaan wines are not yet commercially available but have received good reviews from critics and are set to create a splash once released.
An obvious question is who will distribute those wines. No doubt, given Li’s connection, there will be much speculation about ASC. It already works with Shanxi winery Grace Vineyard, which signed in late 2016 after over a dozen years with Torres China, and which is arguably the country’s biggest fine wine success story. Combining Grace’s rounded portfolio, including four sparkling wines and varieties like Aglianico, with the already well-received wines of DFC and Canaan would make for an impressive one-two punch.
More to come on this project soon.