I had the privilege to join some luminaries of the wine scene this past week in Hualai, Hebei. Richard Li, my former colleague invited me to join Lau Chi-sun of Wine Now Monthly, Jim Boyce of Grape Wall of China as well as Vincent and the always effervescent Judy Chan from Grace Vineyard.
We set off on a bright but crisp Beijing early afternoon once properly fortified with soup noodles
Drop down the bags and get some winter gear on because it is about to go to -10C as the wan sun drops and the winter winds kick up.
We’re off into the nursery to see cuttings with a demonstration from Richard on using the V-cut bench.
The resident stallion was happier to see us than the geese
In Huailai, as with many other Chinese regions due to the winter temperatures and dehydration after thaw, wineries need to bury the vines. In order to cope, they use a modified J-Prune with a single cordon similar to a Single Guyot which is easier to bury and protects the Scion, Cordon and buds in the soil which gets plowed up on top of the rows.
While Chinese consumers slow their purchases, Hong Kong’s wine market is in freefall due to ongoing unrest and the US-China Trade War.
Imports of wine into China are down 41% YOY Jan to Aug, which tracks the 64% decline in re-exports from HK YOY according to a recent HKTDC study.
The HK wine market is taking the brunt of both sides, high inventories based on past consumption combined with dropping local and re-export demand from HK and PRC consumers alike. The 28% drop in HK imports Jan to Aug vs 2018 don’t account for the ongoing protests in HK as most of those orders delivered through August would have been placed in May-June ahead of European winery summer holidays.
One major retailer has commented off the record that wine category sales declined by over 30% YOY August and still slipping. Several major importers have stated that sales are “far below expectations” “Back to 2012 levels” or “we have given up on the budget, just focus on surviving”.
Chinese consumption patterns are also changing with source countries of imports on the move, at home consumption on the rise and the evolution of regional taste preferences.
Australian imports have made big inroads on the due to a combination of factors including import duty waiver, successful marketing campaigns and well accepted color and taste.
While France still leads, China is emerging as a desireable source of quality wines. Production levels have fallen in Chinese wineries at the same time as a new crop of quality producers have been winning awards. Hopefully this means that producers are trading quality for quantity, not a guarantee by past results.
Consumption has started to shift to in-home entertainment and drinking for health/beauty. Economic concerns combined with high markups and sometimes limited choice in restaurants and bars to encourage consumption at home.
Chinese imports of US wines fall by 48% YOY in the first 3 Quarters of 2019.
After peaking in 2016 at $81.5 million, US wine imports slipped to $78 million before dropping rapidly in 2018 due to the emerging trade disputes between the countries.
Current tariff levels of 93% will increase further if now resolution is found by 15 December. In comparison, other countries’ wines are taxed at 41% for the EU and 23% for Australia, NZ and Chile due to their reciprocal tax agreements.
A total of 27 leaders from some of the EU’s major wine companies have gathered in Barcelona for the first edition of The European Committee of Wine Companies (CEEV) “Club of CEOs” meeting to discuss challenges at stake for the European wine trade including climate change and sustainability.
2008 was an endurance race lasting a month in some cases.The freshness and concentration shows with an initial attack of acidity followed by great fruit intensity.After a decade in bottle, the autolysis flavors are just behind the scenes providing texture.Copious amounts of caviar from Prunier helped round out the tasting.2008 may be one of the epic Dom Perignon vintages in history.Hard to say which I enjoyed more..
According to Matthieu Bordes, GM of Château Lagrange, 2019 is going to be one for the record books.
“At the beginning of the Indian summer, we made the bet to wait before picking some of our great cabernet sauvignon! With 27 degrees during the next 3 days we will reach a very high potential in our grapes for producing one of the most concentrated wine we have ever produced at Chateau Lagrange!”
Crazy day with a disturbing quantity consumed!
Med of really good stuff So 1959 .Drappier Champagne to put the hair back on the dog langoustines and uni= awesome! Seared tuna with eggplant and tomato foam!
. Bruno Clair Corton Charlemagne stood up to the burrata ravioli.
Gaja Sperss with cape grim dry aged rib eye.
Tasting, smashing! See you next week for the real event at Shore.
There are some wines that move you. Many that should, but very few that move me. It sounds cliched but, how often do you get a chance?