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July 31, 2011

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Anthony Rose

ANTHONY Rose, the wine correspondent of The Independent and writer for The World of Fine Wine and Decanter magazines

Q: What's China's position in global wine market?

A: Several figures show that wine production in China is growing extremely fast, second only after New Zealand in terms of rate of growth of planting vineyards. For wine consumption, most of Westerners see China as the most exciting and emerging wine-consuming nation.

Q: What are China's domestic wines like?

A: The majority of wine consumed in China is domestic wine, which is either made from local Chinese grapes or from a blend of local and imported grape varieties. However, Chinese wine production still face some bottlenecks. First is its quality. Most of the domestic wine here is cheap and of low quality. Second is its lack of market segmentation, which is necessary for mature wine-producing countries. Even though, I believe Chinese wine producers will finish their segmentation very soon, categorizing wine into medium, premium and ultra-premium - three labels, since there's great demand. Third, China is filled with big wine companies producing commercial wine to comfort shareholders and the main consumers but it lacks small wine growers. It's more appropriate to call them wine pioneers who have the courage to go beyond the safety of the commercial imperative and plant new grape varieties in areas with new soil conditions. In other words, from the base of the pyramid, you go toward the top.

Q: What's the Chinese wine-drinking preference?

A: There's difference between mature wine drinkers who prefer European-style wine, Bordeaux especially, and many younger people with a less sophisticated palate looking for good food and wine matches, who prefer New World wine. Basically, Chinese follow the French model so that red wine, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, dominate the palate.

And, I can't understand why the Chinese palate doesn't accept white wine. During my stay here in Shanghai, I found many nice fish, crab and shrimp dishes that go well with Riesling and Semillon. Admittedly, it's the feature of an emerging wine country that sticks to very narrow parameters in wine style.

Q: Have you tasted Chinese wine? What's your impression?

A: Last night, I tasted the Family Reserve 2009 produced by Silver Heights. It reminded me a bit of French red from the Rhone Valley.


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