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Nation's wine lovers clamor to uncork a taste of Bordeaux

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-30 07:41
Left and right: The Xige Estate in Ningxia Hui autonomous region is located in the foothills of Helan Mountain. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

China is the leading overseas market for Bordeaux wines, according to Allan Sichel, vice-president of a group representing nearly 10,000 wine producers and growers from the French region.

Some 25 percent of Bordeaux exports last year went to China, said Sichel, vice-president of the Conseil interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux, or CIVB.

Exports from the region to China in March and April fell by 30 percent year-on-year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a trend witnessed in other countries.

"However, rose and white wines are doing well, with sales of the former doubling from January to April and those for white wine rising by 27 percent," Sichel said.

He added that it is important for CIVB to continue promoting Bordeaux wines in the Chinese market, and a wide range of digital tools has been used during lockdowns to get the group's message across.

An online store will be launched by the group on the JD platform in October or November, selling some 200 Bordeaux wines, including reds and roses costing from 100 yuan to 500 yuan ($14 to $71) a bottle, Sichel said.

"Some people think Bordeaux wine is always expensive, which is not true. Bordeaux is known worldwide for its top wines, which can fetch very high prices, but they comprise only 3 percent of the region's output," he added.

Sichel said that as the pandemic is under control in China, the group has arranged to host wine events in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and Shanghai in October and November.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China produced 102 million liters of wine in the first five months of this year, a fall of 32 percent year-on-year. Beer production fell by 14.2 percent and baijiu by 9.7 percent during this period.

Zhang Yanzhi, 44, founder of Xige Estate in Ningxia Hui autonomous region, halted wine production for two months due to the pandemic, with full output resuming in June.

Located in the eastern foothills of Helan Mountain, the estate's vineyards cover more than 1,333 hectares.

Zhang faces wage bills for nearly 500 employees a month, including estate staff members and the sales team in Beijing. "We have been fortunate, as we haven't had to fire anyone or reduce pay," he said.

The peak season for wine sales is September to January, but as the pandemic occurred during the low season, it had a reduced impact on business, Zhang said.

To promote sales during the outbreak, he turned to livestreaming shows.

"This is something new that we need to learn from and observe. These shows can give our distributors and customers confidence," he said.

Online supermarket platform JD Super said that during the 618 midyear shopping festival on the JD website on June 18, liquor sales surpassed 100 million yuan in just one minute and 4 million cans of beer were sold within 30 minutes. Xige Estate was among the top 10 wine brands for the festival.

"Our offline sales restarted in April. To date, our distributors have placed orders worth 299 million yuan with us, showing their confidence in Chinese wines," Zhang said.

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