China Daily have reported that Moet Hennessy, owned by French luxury group LVMH, have inaugurated China’s first winery dedicated to the production of ‘premium’ sparkling wine, in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. The sparkling wine is to be released under Moet Hennessy’s Chandon brand in 2014. According to Chandon’s website all Chandon sparkling wines are made with the same grape varieties used in Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. They are also aged in their bottles for a minimum of 18 months. This may be the first winery dedicated to ‘premium’ sparkling wine in China but other Chinese sparkling wines exist, notably Dynasty Sparkling Wine (made from Chardonnay and Italian Riesling grown in the coastal region of Tianjin using the Methode Champenoise).
China is one of the biggest future markets for Champagne – sales have increased in China from 50,000 bottles in 2001 to 2 million bottles in 2012 – and back in May China agreed that ‘Champagne’ would have full labelling protection.
Christophe Navarre, CEO of Moet Hennessy told China Daily:
“The winery not only helps support our group’s total business in China in the future, it also indicates our long-term vision in this fantastic market.
No matter if the Chinese market goes up or down, we will always be here, and we want to be part of China’s future.”
I wrote about Moet Hennessy’s sparkling wine venture in China back in 2011 here. Moet Hennessy planted the vineyard with the with the state owned agricultural company Ningxia Nongken. At the time Nongken already had 670 hectares of vineyards with an annual wine processing capacity of 30,000 tonnes, and aimed to expand its vineyards to 2,010 hectares in the Helan Shan district, Ningxia Hui, where the joint venture vineyard is located.
Established in 1950 Nongken has more than 187,000 hectares of agricultural land and the joint venture will include 66 hectares (163 acres) of land holdings, with Moet Hennessy in control of the new winery on site. This will be the largest area for sparkling wine production in China. Moet Hennessy had been looking for wine production areas in China since 2008 and, although no financial details of the deal were available, Moet Hennessy is reported to own 60% of the vineyard and Nongken 40%. However, Moet Hennessy is the sole owner of the winery.
Mark Bedingham, the managing director of Moet Hennessy Asia Pacific, told China Daily that the sparkling wine produced in Ningxia will initially satisfy local demand but in the future it will also look at exporting the product.
“I believe as a pioneer in the sparkling wine sector in China, we will achieve a high market share after we release it next year.”
This is not Moet Hennessy’s only venture in China – last year I reported that Pierre Lurton, General Manager and Chief Winemaker of Chateau Cheval Blanc and d”Yquem, was searching for land in Shangri-La in Yunnan province for a new vineyard (see my blog The Wine of Shangri-La for the story). In May this year Moet Hennessy launched their new winery in the area of Shangri-La (Deqen county, Yunnan province). This venture is in partnership with the Chinese VATS Group and the 30 hectare vineyard is about 2,400 metres above sea level. The grapes grown will be Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and Petit Verdot and Malbec will be considered at a later date.
“The winery in Yunnan is dedicated to top quality, premium wine. So, to produce the best red wine in China, we are willing to wait longer,” added Navarre.