Posts Tagged ‘wine’

China Is Building a Disney World for Wine

Changyu, China’s winemaking powerhouse, is building French-style chateaus and Italianate castles around the country—and an entire “Wine City”—to encourage the country’s passion for the grape.

At Chateau Changyu Reina, honey-colored brick towers enclose wide cobbled courtyards, and vast, wood-beamed halls look as if they are prepared to host an imminent medieval banquet. At first glance, the Italianate castle and winery could have been built hundreds of years ago, in Italy’s Tuscan hills.

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

The chateau is but one part of an ambitious 600 million yuan ($86.9 million) complex completed four years ago just outside the city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi province in central China. It is a prodigious winemaking operation powered by more than 2,000 acres of vines. Currently, it’s annually churning out 5,000 bottles, mostly merlot—and the goal is to drastically scale up. The cellars at Chateau Changyu Reina have room for as many as 150,000 oak barrels.

An interactive exhibit at Chateau Reina, which teaches visitors about the global history of wine.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

The faux-historic halls of the castle are also home to an interactive exhibition that walks visitors through the history and making of wine. Mirrors encourage visitors to stick out their tongues to examine their taste buds; there’s a statue of Bacchus, plus a wall that showcases the various strata of soil, or terroir. Inexplicably, a giant, smiling face resembling a cartoon grape beams out from one corner. An oversized globe spotlights the world’s other wine regions, while a table covered in Perspex tubes and buttons asks users to see if they can match a region to a scent. There’s even a room dedicated to former Chinese leaders (none of whom seem to be enjoying a glass of wine).

A Country Enchanted by Wine

This mock castle isn’t unique. It’s one of a network of so-called chateaux built across the country, from Ningxia province to Beijing, by China’s oldest winemaker, Changyu.  These grand castles, each inspired by a different European winemaking country, are a concrete sign of the company’s ambitious plans for Middle Kingdom wine.  According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, China is the second-largest wine grower by vineyard area, behind only France, with land under vine roughly the size of Puerto Rico.

Chateau Baron Balboa, a winery owned by Changyu near Shihezi City in China’s Xinjiang Province.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

The challenge Chinese winemakers face, though, isn’t quantity. It’s improving the quality of whatever juice those lands can produce, and that’s where Changyu has tapped an experienced, new partner for help. 77-year old Augusto Reina isn’t just the namesake of that Shaanxi chateau; he’s also the head of Illva Saronno Holding Spa, the Italian winemaker best-known worldwide as the producer of Disaronno liqueur. Reina has imported his know-how to help China’s nascent industry produce vintages that even the sniffiest wine snob might deign to sample. In return, Changyu named a castle after him and even crafted a life-size bronze of the Italian sitting on a bench in the vineyard—raising a glass. 

Is the Quality There?

Augusto Reina.
Illva Saronno

Sitting in a hotel near that castle (and sculpture), Reina anticipates what you’re thinking. “When we came to China seven or eight years ago, I had a stomach ache, I must confess it, from the quality of the wine. It was not so good,” he explains, via a translator. Yet the entrepreneur saw potential in both the product and the market; by 2013, China had become the world’s biggest consumer of red wine and has continued to grow. For more than two and a half years, Reina negotiated with Changyu. “They were very demanding, challenging negotiations. I don’t think this kind of thing would be possible for an American or a French company, because they have such a different business culture,” he continues, diplomatically.

Eventually, Reina brokered a deal that included Illva taking a significant equity stake in Changyu. The pact also initiated an in-depth cultural exchange, sending Illva’s winemakers to various Changyu sites to help school their new colleagues, as well as bringing Chinese staffers to Italy on a tasting tour. The Italians helped Changyu select the grapes to grow and offered advice on how to tend to its existing vines. They pitched in with expertise in selecting machinery for production, too, such as bottling lines.

Chateau Reina, in Xi’an.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

One conundrum that even the Italians can’t crack, though, is the dominance of red wine. Redolent of such renowned regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux, red wine shares a color with both the Communist Party and good luck. Unfortunately for lovers of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, white is the color of mourning and is mostly worn at funerals, which stigmatizes blanc plonk long before it’s opened.

Chateau Changyu-Castel in Yantai.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

Coastal Wines

Nowhere is that partnership more evident than at a second Changyu site, in the resort city of Yantai on China’s northeastern coast, just across the Yellow Sea from North Korea. This is the location of the company’s most aggressive and surreal project so far: Wine City. Set on more than 1,000 acres and costing an estimated 6 billion yuan ($870 million), it is aptly named, a sprawling hybrid of production facility, tourist attraction, and trippy fantasia. The inevitable rows and rows of vines pale next to the manmade structures that dot the landscape. There’s already one chateau, a white neo-Gothic structure that looks like the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and two others are nearing completion. Another Gothic-inspired pile, complete with an artificial moat, will be dedicated to championing and producing red wine, while the squat and sturdy Romanesque chateau next door—imagine the home of any Disney princess—is a temple to brandy making, a first for the company.

Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia, China.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

A swirling skyscraper is under construction on a nearby hill, too: Six abstracted champagne flutes decorate the façade of this Wine Research Institute. (Bordeaux’s new Cité du Vin seems a flimsy rival in comparison.) It will house scientists working on perfecting those vintages, as well as tasting rooms and bars offering views of the countryside, at least on days when pollution from Beijing doesn’t descend in a thick, white smog. Such fumes don’t have much immediate effect on vines, compared with toxins in water or soil, so China’s notoriously noxious air have not yet impacted its wine output.

State-of-the-Art Technology

Most impressive of all are the winemaking facilities themselves, less caves than a series of cathedrals, or gleaming airplane hangars, jigsawed together with articulated roofs that look like giant caterpillars. A shy guide leading a tour round the humming, spotless facilities says this is the world’s largest wine production site. It’s a plausible claim. With 95 tanks here already for a storage capacity exceeding 40,000 tons, more are planned; when Wine City hits peak production capacity, it will churn out 450,000 tons of wine and brandy per year, she said. (Compare that with Château Petrus, which might produce around 30,000 bottles, or just under 200 tons, over the same period)

 

The glass clinks noisily as it trundles around 10 snaking automatic bottling lines, and the cleaning system automatically sterilizes 120 cold stabilization tanks, which help forestall the broken glass-like crystals that form in chilled, bottled wine if it’s not properly handled. While the Changyu brand is emblazoned on almost everything, occasionally other names peek through—Italy’s Tecninox and ERsistemi, for example, collaborated on that cold stabilization room; almost every piece of major tech in the plant is Italian-designed, thanks to Reina’s investment and influence. “All the technologies here are exactly like the ones we have, but since our plant was built two years before them, this is even more modern,” he says, proudly.

Tourism, Too?

Can Changyu’s deep-pocketed attempts under Reina’s tutelage really create a new winemaking hotspot? “It’s definitely one of the recognizable big brands, along with Great Wall and Dynasty. Thus, it has instant brand recognition for many Chinese consumers, ”explains Edward Ragg, of (Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting) in Beijing by email. He is cautious about the Italians’ impact on what goes into the bottle. Euromonitor International Ltd. analyst Spiros Malandrakis is more bullish, drawing parallels with the surging British sparkling wine industry, which has been buoyed by climate change and a few canny blind tastings in which it beat Champagne. “Considering the amount of money being in, and the people involved, we will soon be seeing not just award-winning sparkling wine from England, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see super-premium red wines from China, too,” he tells Bloomberg.


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AC/DC launches wine range

Source: Decanter
Monday 15 August 2011

They’ve sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and now rock band AC/DC is moving into the wine industry.

The group has teamed up with Australian winery Warburn Estate to release a range of AC/DC wines in national retailer Woolworths this week.

The range includes wines named after its greatest hits including Back in Black Shiraz, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato, according to Australian Associated Press.

 

Why Is Congress So Afraid of Mail Order Wine?

Source: Fox News

By: Angela Logomasini

Date: September 29, 2010

The quest by wine and beer wholesalers to maintain their “middleman” role within the liquor industry is simply bad news. A bill making its way through the House (H.R. 5034) sponsored by Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) supports wholesalers’ promises to limit consumer choice and disadvantage retailers, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and importers.

The topic is the subject of hearings before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee today. Not surprisingly, wholesalers hope this legislation will protect the “three-tier system” for distribution of alcohol, which nearly all states impose. The system requires that alcohol producers (wineries, distillers, brewers, and importers) sell only to wholesalers, who in turn market the products to retailers. It thereby bans any mutually beneficial sales between retailers (wine shops, restaurants, etc) and wineries or other producers that could enhance product selection and save money for consumers.

H.R. 5034 strikes back against market liberalization that the Supreme Court fostered with its ruling in Granholm v. Heald. In that case, the Court ruled that laws in Michigan and New York violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The laws essentially banned shipments from out-of-state wineries to New York and Michigan residents, but allowed the wineries in those states to ship wine. The court held that any such regulations must apply equally to in-state and out-of-state businesses.

Since then, many states have begun allowing direct-to-consumer wine shipping. Richard Mendelson, wine lawyer and author of “From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America,” notes: “Within two and half years of ‘Granholm,’ eleven states had leveled up, and none had leveled down completely. Those states had to open their borders to all direct shipping or close them entirely.” This increased freedom has been a boon to consumers who otherwise would have fewer options. It also helps wineries who have trouble marketing specialty products in a world of increasing competition and consolidation among wholesalers.

But the logic of “Granholm” should also apply to retailers, who are now fighting in federal courts for the right to skip the wholesaler tier. The nation’s largest wine retailer-Costco-has gained a partial victory in Washington state and is helping advance a ballot initiative there that would basically break Washington state’s three-tier mandates.

Wholesalers fear the spread of such deregulation. “Direct-to-consumer shipments will never drive a wholesaler out of business, but the deregulation it is fostering will,” noted Craig Wolf of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America in a 2007 issue of The American. Accordingly, wholesalers have been spending millions in PAC donations to members of Congress, pushing them to pass H.R. 5034. The bill would exercise Congress’s constitutional power to regulate commerce by explicitly allowing states to impose regulations would otherwise violate the Commerce Clause.

As introduced, the bill would have allowed states to pass pretty much any regulation they desired, but a scaled-down substitute version that Rep. Delahunt is expected to offer today remains problematic. Tom Wark of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association points out that this draft opens the door to a host of directly discriminatory state regulations focused on retailers, which could ultimately limit consumers’ online buying options.

But consumers who buy direct from wineries or breweries should remain concerned. In addition to curbing freedoms for retailers, the new draft could also bolster state laws that indirectly discriminate against producers. In other words, it might allow discriminatory tax policies or other regulations that would make direct shipping less viable.

Not only is this legislation bad for consumer freedom, it isn’t necessary to “save” the wholesaler business. Wholesalers will not disappear without a mandated three-tier system. In fact, wholesalers do well in places like California and Washington, D.C. where there are no such mandates. Wholesalers exist because they provide a valuable service in getting products to market-but they should have to compete for their place like everyone else.

A key reason the founders drafted the Constitution was to prevent trade impediments between states and maximize individual freedom. Using Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause to impede commerce simply to serve one-special interest is pure folly.

Angela Logomasini, Ph.D. in American Politics, is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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Off-Premise Wine Sales Increase in June

Source: WineBusiness.com

July 10th

Off-premise wine sales data increased 2.2 percent from the same period last year in the four weeks ending June 26 according to The Nielsen Company-tracked data. In the 13 weeks ending June 26, sales were up 3.1 percent.

Domestic wine sales increased 3.6 percent while imported wine sales declined 1.3 percent in the 4 weeks ending June 26. In the 13 weeks ending in the same period, domestic sales increased 4.8 percent while imported wine decreased 1.2 percent.

Most of the growth took place in the over $20 price segment, which increased 14.6 percent in the 4 weeks and 12.3 percent in the 13 weeks ending June 26. Segments showing modertate growth include the $9-11.99, $12-14.99 and $15-19.99 price points.

Wine sales in the $0-2.99 and $6-8.99 price points declined in June. In the 4 weeks ending June 26, wine sales fell 2.7 percent in the $0-2.99 price segment and fell 3.6 percent in the $6-8.99 category.

Source: WineBusiness.com  July 10th
Off-premise wine sales data increased 2.2 percent from the same period last year in the four weeks ending June 26 according to The Nielsen Company-tracked data. In the 13 weeks ending June 26, sales were up 3.1 percent.Domestic wine sales increased 3.6 percent while imported wine sales declined 1.3 percent in the 4 weeks ending June 26. In the 13 weeks ending in the same period, domestic sales increased 4.8 percent while imported wine decreased 1.2 percent.Most of the growth took place in the over $20 price segment, which increased 14.6 percent in the 4 weeks and 12.3 percent in the 13 weeks ending June 26. Segments showing modertate growth include the $9-11.99, $12-14.99 and $15-19.99 price points.Wine sales in the $0-2.99 and $6-8.99 price points declined in June. In the 4 weeks ending June 26, wine sales fell 2.7 percent in the $0-2.99 price segment and fell 3.6 percent in the $6-8.99 category.

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Moonshine Trail for Tennessee Tourists

The tourism bureau in Tennessee is hoping to attract visitors with a moonshine trail. An alternative to wine tastings and brewery tours the self-guided driving trail along the old moonshine route allows tourists to visit historic sites. You cannot drink the 100-proof moonshine on the trail so it is recommended to end your tour at Calhoun’s-Bearded Hill microbrewery. The 200-mile trail celebrates the state’s moonshine past.

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