China Wine Press: Scottish castles, Australian winery sales, Japanese manga

All the wine world’s a stage and China keeps getting bigger roles. China Wine Press looks at media coverage of that drama, with each item preceded by an inane comment from me, just to keep things real. By J. Boyce

(China Daily forgot to ask what wine goes with haggis.)

Ellie Buchdahl of China Daily reports on the only, as far as I know, Scottish castle in China that doubles as a base for a winery. It is called Treaty Port and founder Chris Ruffle notes that start-up was no walk in a glen:

“If any part of the process was ever easy,” Ruffle admits, “you knew you were doing it wrong.” Even after he and his wife Tiffany managed to negotiate a deal for the land with officials, local villagers were not over-keen on this new “laird”, and staged a protest outside the farmhouse.

Grapes were stolen and vines torched. Even now, strips of peanut farm cut through vines where a farmer still stands his ground.

“It’s very short-sighted,” says Ruffle. “It’s because we’re here that they’ve got the road and electricity. We follow a policy of organic growing, and it’s already having an effect – you notice more birds now than when we first moved in. But the farmers still use pesticides and leave rubbish, and there’s not a lot we can do about that.”

See A Laird in China

(This is just a warm-up for someone to buy Penfold’s — or maybe even Barossa Valley.)

Here is a detailed article by Nichola Saminather of Bloomberg on Chinese investment in Australia’s wine industry. (Quite a different tone compared to this story two years ago about Chinese buying Australian wine in order to secure visas.) Mate, the times they are a-changin’:

In the Hunter Valley, where grapes were first planted in the 1820s, Chinese investors have bought six wineries in the past three months and three more sales are in the works, said Cain Beckett, director of the region’s biggest winery broker Jurd’s Real Estate. The Chinese influx is helping revive values of the Semillon and Shiraz-growing region’s 126 vineyards, which had slumped as much as 20 percent since May 2008, he said.

… Winston Wines Pty, based in Xiamen, China, bought its first Australian winery in July and two others since then in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Bigger Chinese firms including Dynasty Fine Wines Group Ltd. (828) and Bright Food Group Co. are studying acquisitions around the world and in Australia to sate the newfound taste for wine from China’s million millionaires.

I expect Saminather will be kept busy covering this story as it gets bigger.

See “China’s Enophiles Revive Australian Vineyards

(So it’s possible to reach the Chinese wine market via… Japan?)

Chris Nuttall-Smith of The Globe and Mail writes about the powerful Japanese manga series Drops of God:

Although the series has sold about eight million copies in Japan since it first appeared in 2004 (there are now dozens of volumes in print), its impact on the wine trade has arguably been more pronounced in South Korea and China, where the wine culture is less developed, said Ed Chavez, a Japanese manga expert, who works for the series’ American publisher. “In Japan, Western culture and food were old hat when it came out,” he said.

This manga series has been covered many times before, but if you haven’t heard of it, this isn’t a bad primer.

See “Sex, lies and vintages: Wine gets the manga treatment

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