Chinese Show Discernment, In California

Since 2008, Chinese imports of wine have been growing at a staggering 30% or more annually, as more than 20 million Chinese consumers are drinking more than $1.8 billion worth of wine each year from various countries around the world. Last year, the Chinese bought nearly US $56 million worth of California wine. This may just be a small drop in the bucket of California’s $1.6 billion worth of wine exports, but like every other wine region around the world, California continues to target China as a key market for the future.

Various trade interests have done everything from conducting large seminars in China, to inviting Chinese tastemakers to events such as Premiere Napa Valley, to opening a wine store in Hong Kong devoted to smaller California producers. Most recently, Family Winemakers of California, a trade association of family-owned wineries, decided to pursue a more intimate and intensive approach to educating Chinese influencers.

This is how I found myself having lunch last weekend with a collection of 12 Chinese visitors at R&G Lounge, one of San Francisco’s top Cantonese banquet restaurants, half way through their three-week tour of California’s top wine regions.

The group had recently visited Storybrook Mountain Vineyards and brought some Zinfandel to drink with our sautéed beef and scallops, but not before we opened a magnum of Bürklin Wolf Riesling brought by Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser, who has been working with these Chinese sommeliers, wine importers, educators and government representatives for more than two years.

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