Wine in China: Three ways to improve quality

By Li Demei

Wine makers and companies in China face many challenges. Here are three things they could do to improve their wine.

1. Wineries need to focus on improving viticulture, that is, the quality of their grapes, rather than simply relying on buying good equipment. Many producers buy their grapes through contracts with farmers. This doesn’t tend to work because the farmers are paid by weight and thus the focus is on quantity, not quality. Many producers also buy bulk imported wine and blend it with their own, thus raising the issue of whether the wine is “Chinese.” An increasing number of wineries run their own vineyards, such as Changyu, which now has a large operation in Ningxia, and this will allow more control over viticulture.

2. Wineries should find wine grapes that fit the growing conditions in China, as Australia did with Syrah and Argentina did with Malbec. For example, it is highly unlikely that Chinese wineries will produce Cabernet Sauvignon than can compete with what we find in places such as Bordeaux and Napa. Instead, wineries need to find what works best locally and look at grapes such as Marselan or Petit Manseng or local varieties.

3. China should focus on the domestic market. Everyone talks about going global, but I don’t see it as feasible at this point. The world already has an annual surplus of wine, so it is more important to focus on the massive Chinese market, where local producers have some advantages, instead of trying to find some small niche market in France, the United States, or elsewhere.

The reality is that some big wineries are listed on stock markets and stating plans to sell wine on the international market can make them look more attractive to investors. But another reality is that even if China could make wine at an international standard, the global market is already saturated, whereas the local market is developing much faster and offers more potential.

More posts by Li Demei

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1 Comment

  1. Wholly agree with this posting. The international market is not ready for Chinese wine imports, even if the Chinese is ready. Chinese wineries better heed this advise and concentrate on developing their own market which still has a long way to go. Incidentially I had a Great Wall red in a China International Airline flight from Beijing to Vancouver. It was good enough that I asked for seconds.

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