Gobi Desert location for Greek-funded winery

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Greek wine-maker Mihalis Boutaris’s grand plan for China involves founding an all-new winery in a far-western Gobi desert town. Work is underway on a 100-hectare facility, which is expected to make its first wines in 2015.

Image: Wine label of Boutari and Mihalis Boutaris, courtesy of Mihalis Boutaris

At the same time, Boutaris has embarked on a venture to sell his family wines – and others – in China. Boutaris is the fifth generation wine maker with Boutari, which was established back in 1879.

The company, which has six wineries in different parts of Greece, and one in France, makes about a million cases of wine a year. The financial crisis in his home country was one reason Boutaris decided to look for new markets including starting his own vineyard, likely to be called Domaine Celeste.

‘I think every country takes pride in its product and I think in ten years we will be able to make wine in China that will compare with some of the best French ones,’ says Boutaris.

‘China has two cardinal constraints as regards winemaking. In the east and south, it’s too wet and warm in the summer. In the west and north, it’s too cold in the winter.

‘Our location is right at the centre of China, the closest you can get to a temperate zone. It’s where the monsoons kiss the Gobi.’

Until the wines make their debut, Boutaris has been busy setting up shop in China, basing himself, and his family, in the port city of Shanghai. The aim is to introduce wholesalers to his family’s range of wines and others from Greece, Italy, Spain, and France.

Adds Boutaris: ‘I think people respect me here in China because I have a long-term view; we are not here for a quick buck. Of course it is a constant struggle, language is a big problem and sometimes the way of doing things is as a whole, it is not linear. You can get frustrated, but I have to remember that I am a guest here as well.

‘Greece was too confining for me. So I fell under the gravity force of the wine boom here in China!’

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