Urbanization has created a vast group of Chinese people interested in wine.
About 200 million Chinese consider wine part of their lifestyle, and their palates are becoming more sophisticated. Australian winemakers are keen to break the French stranglehold on what is potentially a huge market.
Late last month, almost 600 Chinese staff members from the giant beverage company Pernod Ricard went to South Australia’s Barossa Valley for wine appreciation courses.
They were introduced to a range of wines made for the Chinese palate. Bernard Hickin, chief winemaker at Orlando Wines in the Barossa Valley, crafted the China-specific range, called the Jacob’s Creek Winemaker’s Selection.
“We created an aroma and flavor profile that we think suit Chinese food,” he says in a phone interview.
Hickin focused on enhancing the flavors from the grape varieties for all of the seven wines – two whites and five reds. He described them as, “fresh (and) not too alcoholic, with soft tannins”. The soft tannins came about through allowing the fruit to ripen longer on the vines and avoiding too long of contact with the skins.
“I wanted a natural flavor profile,” Hickin says.
The wines are designed to be consumed with food. “And given the popularity of red wine in China, you will be able to eat seafood with the reds,” he says.
Hickin became chief winemaker with Orlando Wines in February 2006, assuming ultimate responsibility for the portfolio of the company’s wine brands and products. Jacob’s Creek is the biggest selling wine in Australia and the company’s main brand. It is the fifth best-selling wine in the United Kingdom, the world’s biggest wine market.
Horace Ngai is deputy managing director for Pernod Ricard China, which owns the Jacob’s Creek vineyard. Ngai says the art of wine appreciation is gaining popularity in the country. Consumers are looking for quality and substance, and moving away from simply buying brand names.
The Jacob’s Creek wines will be available next month. About 85 percent of wine and spirits consumed in China is enjoyed with a meal, so most of the new range will be available through restaurants in major cities.
* “Wines designed for sipping with Chinese nibbles” in China Daily 14 August 2010, page12