China's wine industry ripens as local thirst grows

Mon Nov 7, 2011 10:22pm EST
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By Cathy Yang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Even as Chinese consumers further develop their taste for fine French wines, producers in China itself are upping their game with wines that have made great strides over the last decade, said wine expert Jancis Robinson.

Chinese demand for imported wine remains massive, but the country is now also among the top five growers of grapevines in the world.

"Every time I get to China, I try and get together the best wines that are being made. When I first went into that exercise, I think it was in 2002, it wasn't very inspiring at all," Robinson, a Master of Wine, told Reuters Television on the sidelines of an international wine conference in Hong Kong.

"But actually last year, I was very heartened because I tasted several wines that I thought were quite respectable."

A Master of Wine is a qualification attained after several years of study, and according to the Institute of Masters of Wine, there are only some 300 in the world.

Most of China's wine is sold to the domestic market and the vast majority of it remains less than impressive -- thin, acid and a bit astringent, Robinson said.

"At the moment, only a tiny proportion of Chinese wine is really, really good quality," she added.

"The grapes are fully ripe. They're clean. They're fruity."   Continued...