Price is major obstacle to Chinese wine exports, says Berry Bros buyer

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Chinese wines will struggle to gain an international presence unless producers are prepared to cut prices, according to a senior buyer at UK merchant Berry Bros & Rudd.

Image: Jasper Morris MW (left © Decanter), Ningxia Grape Harvest © Li Demei

While the quality of the best wines are up to international standard, high retail prices in China would be almost impossible to replicate internationally at this stage of development, said Jasper Morris MW, who has recently returned from a trip to Ningxia. Many of the flagship wines from leading estates are priced above CNY400, which equates to roughly £40.

At the time of writing, two Chinese red wines and two icewines were available to buy on the merchant’s website. The wines, produced by Changyu, were priced between £19 and £39 per bottle.

A third icewine, Changyu Golden Valley Ice Wine, Black Diamond Label 2010, was listed as out of stock.

In 2012, UK retailer Waitrose listed Changyu’s Cabernet Gernischt (Carménère) at a price of £9.99 per bottle.

The moves show there is interest in Chinese wines in overseas markets, but Morris said Chinese producers’ need to be realistic about pricing.

‘I have no idea if the pricing [in China] reflects costs or if it is a question of needing to have a high price ticket in order to attract interest among the affluent classes in China,’ Morris, who is Berry Bros’ Burgundy director, told DecanterChina.com.

‘If the best wines can be offered at more attractive prices in export markets then they should start to gain a following more quickly.’

Kevin Gayle, the owner of London-based wine importer Middle Kingdom Wine Cellar, said he plans to launch a Chinese wine-only portfolio in February 2015, with the majority sold at £10-£30.

‘For what the wines are I think the prices will be reasonably competitive considering the effort required to bring them into the UK,’ said Gayle, who does not expect to make a profit initially.

China is the world’s 7th biggest winemaking country, having produced 1.2bn litres in 2013, according to the Paris-based International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV). But, its produce is largely consumed domestically. Only 1.9m litres of wine were exported last year, according Chinese customs figures.

‘Customers do not flock to us eager to try them, but when we put the sweet wines in front of them, the reception is extremely good,’ Morris said of consumer interest in the Chinese wines that Berry’s stocks.

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