Sweet Wines of Bordeaux – Sauternes and Barsac – Aim to Capture the Chinese Market

The Sweet Wines of Bordeaux, Sauternes and Barsac, got off to a late start in China as they were not officially permitted to be imported until 2010. However since 2011 is being hailed as a great vintage for the 11 Sweet Wine AOCs (and Sauternes in particular) winemakers are hoping to carve out a share of the huge Chinese market. We already know that China has a taste for sweet wines as Ice Wine is popular there. Now it seems that Sweet Bordeaux is catching up after a late entry.

Chateau D’Yquem‘s parent company LVMH has a good business network firmly established in China – as does Chateau Rieussec with Domaines de Baron Rothschild.

Chateau La Tour Blanche is opening a Wine School in Beijing and Chateau Guiraud has opened storage cellars in Hong Kong and Shenzen, China to give Chinese wine merchants and distributors access to authenticated, landed stock that can be delivered quickly.

What’s more Pierre Lurton, General Manager and Chief Winemaker of Chateau Cheval Blanc and d”Yquem, is searching for land in Shangri-La in Yunnan province for a new vineyard. Whether he intends to make sweet wine or red there is uncertain but it would be bit of a marketing coup if Pierre Lurton did establish a Chateau Shangri-La – we will have to wait and see!

Sweet Wine producers in Bordeaux have also attracted Chinese buyers with Chateau Bertranon in Peyrat, Saint Croix du Mont, being purchased by Meng Gao. Bertranon produces a wide variety of wines under various AOCs: Saint Croix du Mont, Loupiac, Bordeaux Superieur, and Bordeaux. Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Blanc Sec, Rosé and Cremant de Bordeaux.

Obviously Saint Croix du Mont and Loupiac are not well known Sweet Bordeaux appellations when compared to Sauternes and Barsac but it will be interesting to see if any more chateaux in the appellations surrounding Sauternes are snapped up.

William Ma, chef of the Canton room in Hong Kong, told AFP that Bordeaux Sweet Wines marry perfectly with the typical sweet-salty-spicy Asian cuisine. Many Chinese winemakers and chefs have affirmed their interest in the new approach of pairing Asian food with Sweet Bordeaux wines.

Sweet Bordeaux has been a great success at the growing number of wine festivals in China according to Xavier Planty, president of the Sauternes-Barsac ODG and owner of Chateau Guiraud. He told AFP that he has high hopes for the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival (November 1st – 4th).

Interestingly Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) is abuzz with the hot news that drinking Sweet Bordeaux aids the complexion – supposedly giving a golden and bright skin tone to women (who are the major consumers of white wine in China). This may sound trivial but if a trend like this takes off it could give Sweet Bordeaux an added attraction and see sales rocket.

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