Demei's View - Wine Communication from a Chinese Winemaker
The most significant holiday in China, from a western perspective, might be the Spring Festival. But for Chinese people, celebrating the last day of the year (Guo Nian) is actually of the greatest importance. 'Nian', as one of the Chinese holiday, is the last day of a year. All family members should reunite on the day, and offering sacrifices to the ancestors. The Spring Festival is the next day, when people visit their relatives and friends after the reunion.
This is an important occasion for people to communicate with their families, and spending power will be at its strongest during the period that people prepare for the reunion and celebration. Marketing teams in all walks of life are always busy with campaigns targeting specific groups of consumers at this time of year, and they fight for their chances of advancement.
The wine industry is no exception. More and more wine business owners have started to import Chinese elements into their wines.
On 9 January, Skyline of Gobi Vineyards in Xinjiang released its Year of the Horse nouveau wines in the Chinese Zodiac Series. The name of the wines and the design of the labels are refreshing. Following the Chardonnay and Merlot Year of the Snake nouveau wines in last year, the wines of this year are made by Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. The wines in this series are very fruity and fresh. The winemaking process is carried out with particular emphasis on not having too much maceration of the skins and juice to keep a vibrant and lively palate. No malolactic fermentation for white wines, and both reds and whites don’t use any oak. The harvest and winemaking was in September, and bottling was in December.
Chinese people are familiar with the concept of Chinese Zodiac – each Lunar Calendar year is named after an animal, and there is a 12-year cycle. The animal of a year is the sign for people who were born in that year, so when asking for each other’s age, Chinese people normally ask for the sign of the animal - even if they were not born in the same year, people with the same animal would know the age difference between them is 12 years, and would not get it wrong. Naming a wine with the Chinese Zodiac is a new way to communicate with Chinese consumers. Although the vintages could establish a similar communication, the Chinese Zodiac with the 12-year cycle could appeal to consumers who share the same feelings of the year.
2012 was the first vintage of Skyline's Chinese Zodiac series, as well as the first harvest at their vineyard. In order to share the happiness with friends, the owner set up the concept of this series as nouveau wines that reflect the natural flavour of the grape varieties, to enjoy with friends while welcoming the upcoming spring and the new sign of Chinese Zodiac.
Grace Vineyard had tried to ‘celebrate the springtime’ with wines in 2001. Back then, owner Judy Leissner had just taken over the winery, and in her own words, had just completed her study and joined the management team with confidence, and was hoping to showcase her talent with the idea of ‘wine to celebrate the springtime’. Unfortunately the result did not meet the expectation, so the project was suspended for the next few years.
After a decade, Grace Vineyard has achieved great success in product quality and the brand reputation. July herself is growing in confidence as well. From 2011, the winery successively celebrates the spring season with a ‘new wine’ that has some new features – in the winemaking process, partly using whole clusters in fermentation, and reducing the maceration time due to the demand of bottling in the same year. It is necessary to embody some Chinese characteristics to ‘celebrate the springtime’ with wines, so there are some ancient Chinese poems on the wine labels with the topic of Spring Festival or drinking wine. Ancient Chinese people used to write poetry whilst drinking, so it is easy to bring people into the artistic conception by putting widely-known poetry on the wine labels. For example:
2011 vintage: Peach Wood Charms – One year has passed in the sounds of delight firecrackers, thousands and thousands families change the old peach wood charms on their doors with the new ones to welcome the New Year.
2012 vintage: Bringing in the Wine – Enjoy life when there is prosperity, never tip an empty gold cup to the moon.
2013 vintage: A Short Song – I lift my drink and sing a song, for who knows if life is short or long?
The poems on the labels were written by July’s two litter daughters. Their tender strokes provide some lovely support to the ‘new wine’.
The New Year is coming. I am going to give my father-in-law and my dear sister the Year of the Horse nouveau as presents and I am looking forward to seeing their reaction.
Translated by Nina Fan Feng / 冯帆
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