Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: BBC.com Wine in China


I've put together a few stories about Wine in China over the last few years and today the BBC ran a small series of the work. See below.

The Chinese can drink with the best of them, a fact to which western beer producers have known for decades. But apart from local "rice wines" and beer, a taste for fine wine is building slowly, and both customers and investors are answering the call. As the New York Times stated back in 2008, China could, within a decade, become the "next Chile"; a destination for affordable and quality wine production. As wages rise and more and more Chinese look to acquire the fixings of the the upper class and those associated with a luxurious lifestyle, they will consume finer wines, many of which could be home grown in the future. While much of the landscape of wine growing in China is government run through State Owned Enterprises, there has been an opening for foreign investors and joint ventures. The landscape is littered by privately owned and funded wineries; and among them one of the industry leaders is the Hong Kong based Grace Vineyards who run and operate a handful of vineyards in China; but whose largest operation is the one I visited in Shanxi province.

My production of this work was a truely remarkable experience. The grape vineyards in Shanxi were well maintained and well tended to, the harvasting season was exciting and full of rich visual moments. I think what's important about Grace Vineyards is that they've full embraced the local community, which was obviously a stated goal by the government when considering this type of foreign investment in the region. The Vineyard works with local farmers for maintaining and harvesting, the grape pickers, and women sorted grapes are all hired from nearby villages and towns. It's not only providing an income and training for those involved but it's laying the foundations for future generations of wine development in the region. I wonder what Italian red wine tasted like after only the fifth year in production? That's where much of China is today in production.

In Shanghai there is a real focus on consumption and education. And this is where foreign brands dominate, as schools and importers are setting up shop in an effort to educate the upper reaches of society on the wines of the world. Will China's wine drinking masses follow suit? That's anyone's guess. Is there room for the wine industry to grow? Absolutely, but much of the initial growth is because the industry has started from scratch. Sustainable development will only come in time. Many are watching to see if this industry takes shape to become a global player. Only time will tell. Ryan Pyle - Shanghai, China.

Click here for the BBC LINK.

Ryan Pyle
Website: www.ryanpyle.com
Archive: http://archive.ryanpyle.com

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