Master of What!? ‘Jancis’ wine on sale in China

Wine brand Jancis is back on the radar again in China, with an 80-percent discount on ‘Jancis Green Pine’ Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, just ahead of the mid-Autumn festival holidays. Get two bottles for just RMB99 USD13.50, versus a list price of RMB504 / USD69 for the pair!

For those curious if this wine is endorsed by UK-based Jancis Robinson, who ranks among the world’s top critics, she said she has nothing to do with this brand and is unhappy with the situation.

The Sauvignon Blanc is one of several wines on the Jancis WeChat channel, which posts regular updates, including Cabernet Sauvignon (‘Jancis Red Pine’), Merlot (‘Jancis Silver Pine’) and Carmenere (‘Jancis Golden Pine’), all said to be sourced from Chile’s Central Valley, along with Malbec, Syrah and more.

By the way, I’m not saying anything illegal is going on, as it looks like the name Jancis was registered, but this situation could be confusing for some consumers for quite a few reasons:

  • As noted, Robinson is well-known in wine circles, including in China. Her books have been translated into Chinese. Her reputation, comments and wine scores are often leveraged. The Ningxia region, for example, regularly promotes her visit there in 2012. (Check out this photo essay of her tour.)
  • Robinson is also arguably the world’s most famous Master of Wine (MW). I have seen “MW” used in numerous promotions of Jancis wines — see image 1 above — which could also confuse consumers.
  • It looks like the Chinese translation that Jancis Robinson uses for her name, and the wine media uses to refer to her, is the same one used for the Jancis wines.
  • It’s also surprising to see logo for COFCO used on much of the promotional material. COFCO is very much invested in the wine business, with its largest domestic operation being GreatWall, and it also has numerous overseas wine interests. You can find the logo at top right in the image below. I don’t find this to be a good look for COFCO.

Anyway, I first wrote about Jancis wines back in the spring of 2021:

Somewhere between the Sichuan bullfrog in chili oil and a fiery chorizo burger, my eye caught a wine label at The Beijinger Hot & Spicy Festival last weekend.

Mostly because the wine brand’s name, Jancis, is the same as one of the world’s top critics, London-based Jancis Robinson. It seems to be the same translation as used by Robinson, too.

Posters for the brand include a logo for COFCO, the state-owned company best-known for producing GreatWall wine but that also has other projects like Ningxia’s Yunmo and Hebei’s Chateau SunGod, which does nice bubbly.

One poster features no fewer than 11 Jancis wines, including a Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, all hailing from Chile. That poster also includes well-known Chilean labels like Almavira and Don Melchor.

And I have also seen the wines elsewhere, from major online retailer to national liquor chain 1919 to smaller platforms on WeChat.

Despite this proliferation, I have heard few people mention the wines: I guess it says more about the dire situation of wine in China more than anything else. Nevertheless, it is still not a good look, in my opinion, for a wine scene seeking growth.

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