About the Author

author photo

The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

See All Posts by This Author

French Country Wine Travel Life



France Country Wine Travel Life – What better way to travel than with Wine? It’s worked wonders for DA BG for many years. And you too I hope.

Now French Wine is travelling to China. Not just as exports, but as a new place of production.

Our pals in the not so mysterious east at the dailystar.com fill in the Wine blanks:

PENGLAI, China: The world’s finest winemakers have exacting standards for soil, climate and cultivation to produce the perfect grape. And they are looking to recreate that unlikely blend in China – a country better known for cheap mass production. The potential harvest will be more drinkers in the world’s most populous country, where wine consumption more than doubled in the four years to 2011 and is set to rise another 40 percent by 2016, according to the industry’s top trade fair organizer Vinexpo.

France’s Domaines Barons de Rothschild, maker of the renowned Chateau Lafite reds, is planting roots in China with an initial 15 hectares (37 acres) in Penglai, a hilly green peninsula dotted with vineyards on the east coast of Shandong province with a century-long history of wine-making.

Its great rival, French luxury group LVMH – owner of Dom Perignon champagne among other brands – has 66 hectares for sparkling wine in the up-and-coming wine province of Ningxia in the north.

LVMH is also harvesting its first cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes from 30 hectares in the cool hills of southwestern Yunnan.

“It’s a new El Dorado, it’s a New World,” said Jean-Guillaume Prats, who oversees the firm’s wine division.

“No one knows really where and how vines should be grown. We have some ideas. People have tried. But nothing has been proved.”

The three areas’ winemaking reputations are just beginning to develop, with experts gaining confidence in Ningxia – whose products have won international tasting competitions – and seeing promising conditions in Yunnan, but worrying that Shandong’s wetness could encourage disease.

Even so, bottled results could still take years, as winemakers experiment with the terroir – the soil, climate and other conditions that influence the grape – going so far as remaking the land to improve their odds.

China’s first wine company began production in Shandong in 1892, but a tradition of high-quality vintages never took root.

DBR chose the province after scouting several sites and has spent years blasting through thick layers of rock and digging up earth to create the ideal soil depth, vineyard director Olivier Richaud said.

To counter the summer rain, leaves on each vine – most of them cabernet sauvignon, but six different varietals in all – are thinned to give the grapes more sunlight, and weeds have been planted between each row to absorb more water.

“Everything is completely different from what the company is used to in all the vineyards we have,” Richaud said, standing amid rows of terraces overlooking green hills and a lake.

“Until the end we won’t really know what quality we should get.”

LVMH settled on Yunnan after a three-year search for elements such as good summer months, natural soil drainage and access to water.

The area resembles Bordeaux but at a higher altitude, Prats said, but it could be a decade before the firm makes something it is happy with, he added.

“I am absolutely incapable of telling you when this wine will eventually be released and what it will be called and how many will be produced,” he said.

Chinese vineyards have only recently begun to gain respect for quality, with a Ningxia vintage even winning the title of best Bordeaux-style wine at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards in London.

But so far Chinese consumers have largely given wine as a gift, so tend to buy expensive foreign labels for show.

They themselves drink cheap local brands and only recently has a niche but expanding group begun drinking for taste, said Jim Boyce, a Beijing-based wine expert who runs the blog Grape Wall of China.

As a result, local vintners have generally obliged to make low-cost wine, he added.

“Instead of growing a nice amount of high-quality grapes, they just grow quantity, and don’t care much about them and pick them too early.”

Greek winemaker Mihalis Boutaris found that out the hard way, producing a locally branded good-quality bottle in the western province of Gansu that sold poorly.

He turned to importing Greek bottles instead and sidelined his 20-hectare Chinese vineyard.

“It made me realize there’s really no demand for premium local wine, or there is very little of it,” he said.

Hong Kong-based wine expert Jeannie Cho Lee said foreign firms could not only benefit themselves but also lift the quality of wine made and enjoyed in China – if they can deliver.

Read More HERE.


What are ya thinkin’?

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

26 Responses to “French Country Wine Travel Life”

  1. fran dennis says:

    interesting but not suprising…..whereever there’s a buck to be made…..you’ll find those with deep pockets

  2. dave emmerson says:

    i believe the term is “explotation.”

  3. tad sample says:

    indeed it is dave…..but not necessarily a negative connotion.

  4. jack robbins says:

    as fran said “not suprising”.;considering all the wine france exports to china!

  5. helmut kilnedunst says:

    too true jack…..and don’t forget all the french wine chateaus that have been bought up by the chinese.

  6. sean mullins says:

    nice to know that western yunnan has “cool hills.”

  7. lonnie marshall says:

    what grabbed my eye was the fact that shangdung province has been growing wine for 100 years.

  8. megan ambrose says:

    ok lonnie….but how good can it be if the french are moving in?

  9. lonnie marshall says:

    ah..there’s the rub…..how do you define “good?”

  10. megan ambrose says:

    well lonnie……taste…..does come to mind!

  11. lonnie marshall says:

    hear ya megan…but….whose taste? yours? working class chinese?
    wealthy chinese? the chinese in between?”

  12. carleton stenns says:

    lonnie/megan..there’s another variable that enters into the equation….PRICE! ie – “good” at what price?

  13. quentin forrester says:

    well observed carleton….after all the price/quality ratio is how we make all our buying decisions…..is it not?

  14. carleton stenns says:

    it is for me quentin…and i would suspect for the majority of folmks who don”t have pockets that go (sorry can’t resist) “all the way down to china!”)

  15. quentin forrester says:

    carleton….you’re not only a good observer…but a droll punster too!

  16. megan ambrose says:

    quentin/carleton……some good points there that did’nt occur to me at first….but i do agree with you both.

  17. lonnie marshall says:

    megan…you can count me in there too!

  18. yaro zennon says:

    nice to see such a lively and informed discussion!

  19. norm flockhart says:

    my take here is that by establishing themselves in china, the big players, as the post says will raise the quality standard…thus hopefully educating the chinese tastes.

  20. ab rosen says:

    true norm, that would be the best possible scenario….but what if, despite all their experience the “big players” wind up with a mediocre wine?

  21. norm flockhart says:

    ab…..i think that’s probably their biggest nightmare!

  22. ab rosen says:

    norm…..i know it would be mine if i was in their shoes.

  23. pami kulhane says:

    hey people…let’s not shed any crocodile tears for these luxury brands…they rip people off all over the world..china will be no exception…..

  24. ed winston says:

    amen pami…a BIG amen!!!

  25. vic cynters says:

    i think the way these luxury brands could hedge their bets…would be to import motorized bicycle’s to china……and sell them at a loss to get market share….then if their wine tanked….they’d hav a list of buyers!

  26. karen dennis says:

    interesting thought vic…you are definitely smarter than the average bear!

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...