Monday, August 25, 2008

Trendy Monday: China's Drinking Wine

I'm a little late with this "trend", definitely. After all, the Beijing Olympics ended last night, and that was almost definitely the catalyst behind the two articles I read last night about the wine market in China. The articles - one by Mike Steinberger in Slate and the other by Lettie Teague in Food & Wine - cover a lot of the same territory, though they're certainly not identical. (I should also mention that they're probably my two favorite wine writers, so I'm biased to start.)

The gist of the beginning of both articles: China is a huge potential market for wine sales. It's rapidly growing, Hong Kong is already a hotbed of wine collection, and there are just so, so many people.

From there, though, the articles diverge, since they come from different perspectives. Steinberger writes as a wine fan himself. He's worried that Chinese collectors will inflate the prices of Bourdeaux and Burgundies, making the already expensive and limited quantities of great French wines even less available to francophile-oenophiles like himself. He also writes about the domestic wine industry in China and his (admittedly selfish) hope that it succeeds. Apparently there are at least some areas of China that are ideal for producing wine, and there has been some Western investment in those areas - good news for all.

Teague's article takes a different tack, as it's also something of a profile of Alessia Antinori, export manager for her family's Marchesi Antinori, the Italian winemaker. Antinori spends a lot of time in both China and India, cultivating the markets and introducing Italian wine. In fact, in some places, it almost sounds like she's introducing wine altogether. Regardless of her customers' knowledge, Antinori obviously sees a ton of potential in the Chinese market (less so in India, where taxes make imported wines prohibitively expensive).

One of the things I found most interesting in the Antinori article was that she's my age. And wow is her life different from mine. Teague addresses that difference, too, specifically noting that Antinori wants to have kids one day. I guess you can't get around that question when you're talking to a woman in her early 30's who travels for months at a time? Still, if I was a different kind of writer and thinker, I'm pretty sure I would be offended at the seemingly out of the blue inclusion of that piece of information. Fortunately, I'm not that kind of writer or thinker, and Teague really just answered a question I was thinking.

So there it is: China and wine, in the news. I wonder, now, if we'll continue to hear a lot about this, or if the subject will die with the closing ceremonies.

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