Britain's oldest wine merchant puts new Chinese wine on sale

Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:20pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's oldest wine merchant is giving its official stamp of approval to Chinese wine by stocking four wines produced in China from European grapes, a production shift which could help China muscle into the world wine market.

Berry Bros. & Rudd, which dates back 314 years and is a supplier to the royal family, said it was the first major British retailer to put Chinese wines on sale alongside some of the world's finest wines.

The four wines on offer, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and three ice wines priced from 19 pounds to 65 pounds ($28 to $98), are from Chateau Changyu in eastern Shandong province which is China's oldest and largest winery.

Mark Pardoe, Berry Bros's master of wine, said they were different from most Chinese wines produced for domestic consumption as they were made from European grapes and to European standards.

"For the first time we have some Chinese wine that will not be embarrassed alongside some of the world's finest wines," Pardoe told Reuters. "This really is a snapshot of what China can do in the future."

China is the eighth largest producer of wine in the world and is forecast to be sixth largest by 2016.

Wine consumption in China has more than doubled in the last five years, according to Vinexpo, a wine industry expert, and China is expected to become the second largest wine consumer by value by 2016, up from third place today.

But to date most wine has been made for Chinese consumption and is not suitable for export and overseas tastes.   Continued...

Barrels of wine are seen inside a wine cellar in Chateau Changyu Afip Global on the outskirts of Beijing, September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Barry Huang