CHINESE wine has come of age according to Berry Bros & Rudd which has become the first major UK retailer to give it a permanent place on its shelves.
Four Chinese wines are now on for sale at the 314-year-old wine merchants, based at Houndmills, in Basingstoke, alongside the finest wines from around the world from Berry’s flagship shop in St James’s Street, London. The new wines are also for sale on its award-winning website bbr.com.
The Chinese vintages have already been showcased at one of Berry’s exclusive tastings in London – the first time this has happened – at which Masters of Wine and senior wine writers sample new arrivals.
This exclusive group of connoisseurs sampled four wines produced by the leading Chinese producer Chateau Changyu.
They included a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, which has been aged in imported French oak barrels, and three Ice Wines made from frozen grapes, which give the wines a fresh and pure flavour and an intense sweetness.
Chinese consumers already drink over 1.6billion bottles of wine annually, and this is forecast to grow by a further one billion by 2015.
Commenting on the emergence of Chinese wine, Berry’s wine buying director Mark Pardoe, MW, said: “It seems that the predictions we made in our Future of Wine Report in 2008 are already beginning to come true – and this is a first step towards serious international recognition.
“China is already the eighth largest producer of wine in the world so it was only a matter of time before it entered the international market, and its huge geographical size and range of climates mean that there must be regions capable of producing good wine.
“Until now the country’s focus has been on its volume-driven domestic market, and other export efforts have been based on external investment.
“Changyu’s strategy represents a change, with home-grown investment in partnership with international expertise, with a real will to get things done, so the time felt right to take an early temperature of the water.
“While this may be a small selection of wines, they are a sign of things to come. Chateau Changyu has led the way in bringing in expertise from the Old and New World wine makers and creating some top-class wines.
“However, there will be other winemakers hot on their heels and we expect to taste wines of great quality from more Chinese producers. Amongst the so-called ‘new New World’ wine regions, China is definitely in the ascendant.”