Changyu's global ambitions

Updated: 2012-06-03 08:02

By Mathew Scott in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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Vanessa Zou says she knew that there would be some interest in Chinese wines at this year's Vinexpo Asia-Pacific fair in Hong Kong. What left her breathless by day three, though, was just how much interest there ended up being.

"We knew this would be a big event - but we have not had a moment's rest," says Zou, an import department manager at Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine.

"We were hoping to find some international partners for our business and we have had people coming into our booth from the moment we opened. They want to know how we make our wines and what wines we are making."

The Changyu vineyard in Yantai, Shandong province, dates back to 1892, making it the country's oldest established winery, and with 20,000 hectares spread across the country's main grape-growing regions, the company lays claim to overseeing around one quarter of the vines in the country.

As well as Shandong, the winemaker now oversees crops in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Liaoning and Shaanxi.

After having long since established itself as one of China premium brands, however, Changyu has pushing hard for international recognition.

"We want more people to know about Chinese wines and we want to introduce more foreign wines to the Chinese people," Zou says.

Figures released by fair organizers before Vinexpo claimed China is currently the world's fifth largest wine market with 156.19 million nine-liter cases of wine sold in the country.

But Changyu has been looking at a bigger, global picture. The company already has formed partnerships with the likes of the France's Chateau Liversan, situated in the legendary Bordeaux region, and with the expansive Donelli wine group from Italy.

While actively seeking partners during Vinexpo proved a wise move for Changyu in its efforts to spread its brand name globally - especially considering more than 15,000 people attended, a records for the three-day event - the company continued at the same time to promote its properties as destinations for "wine tourism."

Establishing chateaux at its major wineries has helped Changyu not only promotes its wines but helps educate a whole new generation of Chinese wine lovers thanks to tastings, tours and seminars which open up the whole wine-making process to those whose experience of wine had previously ended with the empty bottle.