China-based wine importer and distributor ASC opened an ambitious project called The Wine Gallery last week (see write-up here). CEO Don St. Pierre Jr. was up from Shanghai for the event and I asked him three questions.
1. ASC opened The Wine Residence in Shanghai several years ago but it has more of a club feel that the The Wine Gallery. Since Shanghai is usually seen as a more important wine market than Beijing, I asked why ASC put a greater focus on areas such as trade and education in its Beijing operation. He gave me five reasons:
- “For us, Beijing and Shanghai are similar in size. There is a not a big difference in revenue.”
- “Beijing is the city where we sell more fine wine than any other city, including more classified growth.”
- “All cities in China have a strong interest in wine, but Beijing consumers, more than Shanghai consumers, are genuinely interested in learning about wine.”
- “We already have The Wine Residence in Shanghai.”
- “Beijing is where ASC started its business [in 1996].”
2. Major players COFCO (maker of Great Wall wine), Changyu and Aussino all have multistory wine operationsÂ nearby. How is ASC different from them?
â€œAussino has a very good model, but it is first and foremost a retailer, while we are first and foremost a distributorâ€. [Some guy cut off the answer at this point. It happens.]
3. Given that Torres China has done well by having the local brands Grace Vineyard from Shanxi and, more recently, Silver Heights from Ningxia, did ASC plan to add a Chinese label to its portfolio?
“We were very close to buying a local Chinese winery [Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard] two years ago and were unsuccessful. Iâ€™m interested in finding a high quality local wine but up to now we have not found anything of substance. With our new partner Lafite, we will work with them on the operation in Penglai.â€ St. Pierre said the wines from the Lafite operation should be available in less than five years, â€œbut it is going to be a small winery, only 22 hectares.â€
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