Business / Economy

Napa Valley wines may make shift toward Chinese palate

By Elizabeth Wu in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-15 07:23

More mainland investors are finding their way to wine country in California's Napa Valley, as the Chinese are buying not only bottles of wine but vineyards as well.

"The Chinese presence in Napa will explode in the next five years," predicted Charles Kimball, owner of Chinese Napa Tours, which offers Mandarin translators. "This is only the beginning of the influx."

Napa Valley, located north of San Francisco, is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world and according to Kimball, four vineyards in the area have Chinese owners.

Guilliams Vineyards, known for its cabernet sauvignon, was purchased in the last six months; Sloan Estate was purchased a year ago; and Silenus Vintners, the first Napa winery to be acquired by a Chinese-American company, was bought by Silenus

Napa Valley wines may make shift toward Chinese palate 

Wine imports drop 9% in H1 of 2014
International Group back in 2010.

Kimball said Kien Choang, a Vietnamese conglomerate, purchased winery facilities and 13 acres of land from the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. The vineyard now exports all its wine to Asian markets.

Quixote Winery, famous for making petite syrah, was sold to a Chinese company, Jinta Vineyards and Winery, for $20 million in the last six weeks; it was the company's second winery purchase.

Former NBA player Yao Ming also bought a vineyard in Napa Valley in 2011 and started Yao Family Wines.

Recently, a cooperative of wineries in southwest France called Vinovalie said they are producing wines tailored to the Chinese palate, according to CCTV. In California, winemakers are doing the same.

"In California, we produce wines for a global palate and also for the European palate, which is more constrained," said Linsey Gallagher, vice-president of international marketing for the Wine Institute based in San Francisco. "The Chinese prefer a fruitier wine," she said.

Flavors of ripe fruit, candied fruit with aromas of violets are attractive to Chinese wine drinkers, Gallagher said.

"There is a lot of opportunity in the China market for Californian wines," she said, adding that the microclimate and soil in California are ideal for making certain types of wine.

Wine exports from California to China have increased by over 300 percent in the past five years, reaching $70 million in 2013, according to Gallagher.

"A California wine such as zinfandel goes great with Western food and also traditional Chinese food. It does very well in China as it is food-friendly with light hints of sweetness," said Gallagher, who has traveled to China several times, attended the Hong Kong Vinexpo, and participated in trade missions to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

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