Eric Asimov, Sichuanese food and China

by Eve Resnick on February 15, 2008

in General

Today, for the first time ever, I posted a comment on the blog of the famous journalist Eric Asimov. I’m still a little amazed by my own audacity and wonder if I won’t get some problems because of my silly comments.

Whatever… What was it about? It is the Chinese New year and Asimov had some Chinese food to celebrate and suggested some wines to accompany the food. It happens I just had dinner at a wonderful Sichuanese restaurant in Bordeaux, France, “Au Bonheur du Palais”, owned by Tommy Shan and his family. If you want to read my post, go to Eric Asimov’s blog. I’d like to move ahead on some thing more related to my usual topic and obsession, wine brands.

In China, consumers are not used to drink wine with their food: it is a western habit. Luckily for France, the Chinese still think that French wines are the best. That is why importers of the Classified Growths and all the luxury wines are selling their wines with no problem – sometimes even more expensively than in Europe or in the US! Wine is definitively on its way in China!

An anecdote tells it all. On April 18th, 2007, in Beijing, some very happy Chinese tasted Chateau Haut-Brion blanc and Chateau Haut-Brion rouge: “it tastes better than rice wine or beer, and it’s better for your health”, said one of the lucky participants. Those words are milk and honey to the ears of many importers and owners of wine estates. Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose family owns Chateau Haut-Brion, is aware of the growing interest of Chinese executives for luxury wines: “I think people are starting to understand the notion of quality brands. The luxury brand has ignited interest in the Chinese market. There’s been a lot of work done by a lot of these luxury groups — they’re very visible here. I think the timing is right for us.”

Of course the market is still very small, but it is expanding dramatically. In 2005, China jumped into the world’s top-10 wine-consuming countries. In 2006 Chinese wine imports doubled over the previous year, from 1.15 million cases to 2.2 million, and with annual consumption at a mere 0.7 liters per person, there is plenty of room for growth. No wonder wine-market analysts foresee a 36 percent increase in Chinese wine imports by 2010.

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