Title: Inside the Chinese Wine Industry
Author: Loren Mayshark
The wine business is one of the world’s most fascinating industries and China is considered the rising star. A hidden secret, the Chinese wine industry continues to grow at an amazing pace and is projected to soon enter the top five producing nations, supplanting long established countries such as Australia. Inside the Chinese Wine Industry: The Past, Present, and Future of Wine in China takes you through the growing Chinese wine scene.
Wine has had a meteoric rise in China over the past two decades. The nation is projected to become the second most valuable market for wine in the world by 2020. One recent study concluded that 96% of young Chinese adults consider wine their alcoholic drink of choice. Not only does Inside the Chinese Wine Industry explore current expansion and business models, it journeys back to the past to see where it all began.
There are more than seven hundred wineries in China today. Although it’s bit of an oversimplification, the vast majority of the wineries fit into one of two categories: the larger established producers who churn out mostly plonk to meet the growing demand for inexpensive wine and the newer wineries that try to cater to the tastes of the wealthy Chinese with money to spend on luxury goods like fine wine. In the words of wine guru Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, “The cheap wines from the very large producers have mostly verged on dismal.” However, this should not be considered a blanket statement regarding every wine from large producers. Also, she has positive reflections regarding the level of wine produced by “cutting-edge wineries” which she finds “far better.” How good are they? MacNeil asserts: “Some of these wines are so good they could easily pass for a California or Bordeaux wine in a blind tasting.”
Loren Mayshark studied Chinese art, religion, philosophy, and history while earning a B.A. in history from Manhattanville College in New York. After graduation, he attended The Gotham Writers Workshop and the prestigious New York Writers Workshop. He has written about the Chinese wine industry for The Jovial Journey and Sublime China.
After college, he supported his itinerant lifestyle by working dozens of jobs, including golf caddy, travel writer, construction worker, fireworks salesman, substitute teacher, and vineyard laborer. Predominantly his jobs have been in the restaurant industry. He cut his teeth as a server, maître d’, and bartender at San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Grotto #9, the original restaurant on the Fisherman’s Wharf. While working with a colorful crew of primarily Mexican and Chinese co-workers.
He spent much of his young adult life exploring the wine industry from Sonoma Valley to the North Fork of Long Island, immersing himself in vineyards and learning valuable lessons. He has traveled extensively in South America, Europe, and Asia. He presently splits his time between Western New York and Sweden.
His first book, Death: An Exploration, won the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award in the category of Death and Dying and was a finalist for book of the year in the 2016 Foreword INDIES Awards in the category of Grief/Grieving (Adult Nonfiction). Inside the Chinese Wine Industry is his third book.
For more information visit his website: lorenmayshark.com.
Keep up with him on Twitter: @LorenMayshark
Facebook: https://bit.ly/2PoUKHW and http://bit.ly/LMaysharkFB
Author Website Bookpage: http://bit.ly/LmaysharkWB
Li Peng’s Proclamation is the Spark that Ignites the Wine IndustryAll of these currents flowed together, coming to a head at an extraordinary moment in 1996. Li Peng, who was Premier at the time, stood before the National People’s Congress in Beijing and praised red wine for its many benefits to the health of the individual and for the country. He criticized the use of baijiu and called for change. He solidified his position at future banquets by being careful to provide red wine which he would hold high in the air for toasts where in the past, those glasses would have been filled with baijiu. The pronouncement of Li combined with a wave of news pieces on the merits of red wine in maintaining and improving heath, especially cardiovascular health, made it an almost instant hit. Moreover, red is a lucky color in China, so red wine was an easy sell. The fortune of those who loved red wine in China and others who sought to profit from this growing industry had just taken a massive positive turn.1
The impact of Li’s proclamation was timely, and the impact was widespread. To meet the growing demand, China was shipping wine in by the 22,000-liter bag. In 1996, Fernando Rovira was in charge of international sales at the Bodegas Félix Solis winery located in Spain. He recalls that the orders started rolling in from China for significant volumes of wine. “People wanted four, five containers in the first order, no sample required,” he reflected.2
The proclamation by Li in 1996 coincided with the Ninth Five-Year-Plan approved by the National People’s Congress in the same year. This plan insisted upon a dramatic increase in the quantity of grapes produced domestically and an increased production of wine. Since vineyard production was not robust enough to meet government demands, many wineries including Great Wall and Dynasty (two of the “Big Three” producers along with Changyu), imported grapes from Australia, South American, Spain, and even France. The wine industry was on the rise, and so was the purchasing power of the Chinese expanding consumer class.3
The industry was in the midst of a viticultural gold rush and many enterprising individuals scrambled to get a piece of the action. Before Li’s proclamation, there were several dozen vineyards, but that number swelled to three hundred in just a few years. In a single year, the volume of wine consumption almost tripled in China, and imports grew sixfold.4 The wine industry was not the only aspect of the Chinese economy that was roaring.
Deng Xiaoping’s economic overhaul ushered in a period of rapid industrialization and transformed the nation from a more collective structure with a state-run economy (command economy) into one of many have-nots and a small growing class of nouveau riche. China experienced decades of rapid economic growth. Next to the United States, China has more billionaires than any other country in the world.5 China is fourth worldwide in the number of millionaires.6 Moreover, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong rank in the top ten wealthiest cities in the world.7
As the nation was creating an ultra-rich class, China was opening up to the rest of the globe and curiosity about the West, and its trappings soon followed. The taste for Western luxury in the form of BMWs, Gucci, and a thirst for the best of Bordeaux flourished; fine wine became a symbol of success for many. The story about a rising class of industrial entrepreneurs is one that is pertinent to the development of a prosperous wine industry. The developing role of wine as something to enjoy, to learn about, and as a way to show off one’s status in China is pivotal in explaining its current popularity. Moreover, it was used as a means to flatter and in some cases bribe. Wine is an interesting prism through which to view China’s economic ascent and their emergence on the world stage as a player in many key markets.8
1 Aryn Baker, “The Sweet Taste of Success,” Time, May 16, 2005, http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,1059080,00.html.
2 Pieter Eijkhoff, Wine in China: Its History and Contemporary Developments (Utrecht: P. Eijkhoff : Nederlands Wijngilde, 2000), http://www.eykhoff.nl/Wine%20in%20China.pdf. Dissertation to obtain the degree Grandmaster Wine Taster of Dutch Wine Guild.
3 Mustacich, Thirsty Dragon, 87.
4 Eijkhoff, Wine in China, 136.
5 Kathleen Elkins, “There Are More Billionaires in the US than in China, Germany and India Combined,” CNBC.com, May 15, 2018, https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/more-billionaires-us-china-germany-165900809.html.
6 Lovemoney Staff, “The Countries with the Most Millionaires Revealed,” MSN, June 20, 2017, https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/the-countries-with-the-most-millionaires-revealed/ss-BBzsCIg.
7 Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj, “World’s 15 Richest Cities In 2017: New York, London, And Tokyo, Tops List,” CEOWORLD Magazine (blog), February 12, 2018, http://ceoworld.biz/2018/02/12/worlds-15-richest-cities-in-2017-new-york-london-and-tokyo-tops-list/.
8 MacNeil, The Wine Bible, 909.