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Wine, women ... and a new song

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-12-08 07:37:22

Wine, women ... and a new song

Cai Meng/China Daily

As drinking habits develop in China and evolve elsewhere, there's a new emphasis on female clientele, from producers to consumers, Mike Peters reports.

None of the cliches about Chinese wineries seem to apply at Ningxia's upstart Kanaan Winery. There is no aura of French Bordeaux-any European vibe here is German. There is no faux chateau. The white-wine grapes in the vineyard are mostly chardonnay, but the vintages are riesling.

One thing about Kanaan, however, is suddenly starting to feel rather typical: The winemaking is not run by a somber, bearded consultant with a European accent but by a Chinese woman-Wang Fang, a vivacious redhead who delights in the nickname "Crazy Fang".

Her wines have won acclaim from international critics like Jancis Robinson and awards from Decanter magazine. More intriguing perhaps is not that Wang represents a new appreciation for wines of quality in China-she also represents an increasingly female face of the industry.

There are some big players in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region's wine business, says Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser, who consults for industry leader Changyu. "But the most interesting winemakers may be four ladies: Emma Gao at Silver Heights, Zhang Jing at Helan Qing Xue, Gloria Xia at Chandon and Crazy Fang."

That "fantastic four" join the founder of the winery in Shanxi province, long considered to be China's best, Judy Chan at Grace Vineyard.

The rise of women in winemaking reflects more than their formidable ability. It's an important indicator of market forces.

"Seventy percent of wine purchases are made by women, whether in supermarkets or online," observes Moser. "So having women at the front end of the process just makes sense."

Trends in those purchases are revealing: In China and around the world, the wine categories experiencing some of the most exciting growth are whites, sparkling wines and roses. Wine consumption is sliding in Europe, and a growing percentage of alcohol there is consumed at home instead of restaurants-two factors that have made women a bigger percentage of wine buyers in the last decade.

"Men buyers tend to be stimulated by elegant Grand Cru labels and equally fancy price tags-and not just in China," says critic and winemaker Robert Joseph. "Women more often choose based on a pretty label, an appealing flavor and a reasonable price for value."

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