Felicity Carter, writing for Meininger’s Wine Business International, has reported that Chinese Wine is a hit in Europe: “Ice wine from Chinese wine producer Changyu will be served on Lufthansa’s first class Asian routes, beginning in Autumn 2012. This follows the success of the Changyu Cabernet D’Est in penetrating Europe’s markets.”
“We are very successful with these wines in Belgium,” says Lenz Moser, owner of importer TxB International Fine Wines. He says that Changyu wines are now listed in the Belgian supermarket Delhaize.
Moser said Changyu’s first European market was France, where they are distributed by Castel. At the beginning, however, the wines did not attract repeat orders. After intensive work to improve wine quality, “the wines are flying.” Moser says that Delhaize has “ordered five times since the start of the campaign in September.”
Changyu is no newcomer to the world of wine. Zhang Bishi founded the Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Company in 1892. Today, it is now the tenth largest wine company in the world, producing more than 9,000,000 tonnes of wine per year and has more than 4,000 employees.
The Changyu Cabernet D’Est is made from the mysterious Cabernet Gernischt (see my blog What is China’s Cabernet Gernischt?). No one is actually sure what Cabernet Gernischt is – it could be a cross between Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon *(which might explain its German name Gemischt ie Mixed), a hybrid that developed in China or an ancestor of Cabernet Franc . . or possibly not even a Cabernet at all – it could be Grenache.
It’s said that Zhang (Chang) Bishi introduced the grape to China in 1892. Records vary as to how many grape varieties he imported from Europe (and apparently the USA). The consensus is that he imported 120 different grape varieties but no one knows what they were.
Cabernet Gernischt is by no means exclusive to the Changyu Wine Company although they appear to have the most hectares of it and have marketed it as a signature wine.
Chanygu’s Golden Icewine Valley produces ice wine in the area around Hanlong Lake in Liaoning from more than 5,000 hectares of vines at an altitude of 380 metres. The primary grape variety is Vidal, introduced by Aurora, a Canadian wine company.
In total Changyu now has a combined 16,666 hectares of vineyards in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Shandong, Shaanxi, Liaoning and Beijing – fully a quarter of the entire grape growing area in China. The company hopes that its output will double to reach 400,000 tons by 2015.