The long, slow immersion

Updated: 2012-06-03 08:02

By Rebecca Lo (China Daily)

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The long, slow immersion

Dynasty, another of China's giants, was also at Vinexpo to establish a presence among international labels. [Rebecca Lo/For China Daily]

One of China's largest wine producers believes that changing drinking habits in China will take both education and great produce. Rebecca Lo talks to its wine-maker at Vinexpo 2012 in Hong Kong.

During the first hour of the opening day, before the speeches and uncorking at the biggest trade fair devoted to wine and spirits in the world, Dynasty Fine Wines' chief winemaker Lu Wen was already talking numbers.

With a flurry of activity at the booth as buyers flocked to check out Dynasty's premium "Jue" (noble) cask collection of limited edition wine barrels proudly showed off by a pair of leggy female models, Lu is presiding over a private room at the back. Being a numbers guy, he makes sure that every fact is double-checked for accuracy.

Although his official title is advanced engineer, assistant director of production department, Lu is a Tianjin scientist at heart.

Armed with a master's degree from Tianjin University of Science and Technology, he has helmed Dynasty's production department since 2008 after joining the Tianjin-based winery in 1996.

He has 16 years of winemaking experience and is intimately familiar with the terrain of China's ma

The long, slow immersion

Lu Wen, Dynasty's vintner. [Rebecca Lo /For China Daily]

jor wine production areas in Ningxia, Xinjiang, Hebei and Tianjin.

His team of 15 winemakers travel to Dynasty's various sites during harvest and other key production times to oversee quality control.

"Ninety percent of the grapes we use in production are grown in China," explains Lu. "Our vines are cloned from mostly France and Spain: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

"We currently have Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon growing across about 10,000 to 15,000 acres (4,046-6,070 hectare) in Xinjiang, mostly in the north and south parts of the autonomous region. We also have about 6,000 to 8,000 acres of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay growing in Ningxia, 3,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Hebei and a bit of Riesling in Shandong."

He reviewed Dynasty's production process in detail, explaining that it works closely with local farmers to use their land and their expertise. At the same time, they dispatch Dynasty's in-house viticulturalists to oversee production at the critical harvest times.

"We have been moving our vineyards west, as we have found over the years that Xinjiang and Ningxia yield better quality grapes.

"We harvest red grapes from the end of September to mid-October, and white grapes from beginning to mid-September, depending on the region and that year's climate conditions."

All vineyards have processing factories on site, while the wine itself is barreled in American white and French oak back in a central facility in Tianjin.

Reds are typically aged for 18 months while whites are aged for eight months. "Our most expensive wine available on the Hong Kong market is priced at HK$600 ($77), while our most expensive wine in China is 2,000 yuan ($314). The latter is primarily made from Ningxia grapes with very low yields of 3,000 to 4,500 kilograms per hectare."

Dynasty has enjoyed the knowledge of Remy Cointreau, its joint venture partner, since 1980 - and acknowledges that it has helped steer an entire generation of non-wine drinkers into buying 7 million cases annually today, according to Bai Zhisheng, Dynasty's chairman and executive director.

Its mandate has always been to gently encourage new consumers to try their products: price point, branding and access all work in tandem to achieve this goal.

"Ninety percent of our wine is produced for Chinese and consumed within China," says Lu. "For the short term, we don't see this changing. In the long term, we may concentrate more on the production of whites - but that's a discussion for the future."

The long, slow immersion

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