Chinese Wines

Its absence isn't surprising, given the country's low profile in the world's fine wine market. After all, per capita wine consumption in China is a scant 0.7 litres compared with 55 litres in France. Diet may have something to do with China's low standing among oenophiles. What wine does one serve with yuanxiao or, as it's more commonly called, glutinous rice ball?

Little known is the fact that China boasts vineyard acreage comparable to Australia's, but of a far lower standard, ranking it among the world's largest players. China produced 700 million bottles of wine last year and is likely to raise production substantially as an increasingly wealthy middle class develops an appetite for good wine.
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Indeed, we'll be hearing a lot more about wine from China, according to a recent report, The Future of Wine, from Berry Brothers & Rudd, one of the oldest independent wine merchants in Britain. Over the next half-century, it says, China's 400 wineries will multiply more than 10-fold.

Climate change will work in China's favour, it adds, as a lack of water will limit the ability of drought-plagued Australia to supply bulk quantities of wine by 2058, while new regions will open up in China with the right conditions to produce fine wine.

Other traditional wine-growing countries will decline in the face of global warming, while those in India, Eastern Europe and, yes, Canada, will blossom.

China, with 310,000 millionaires and 106 billionaires (in U.S. dollars), will see increasing demand for imported wine as well, a prediction not lost on Agriculture Canada, which produced a report The Wine Market in China: Opportunities for Canadian Wine Exporters in February this year.

While it may be difficult to imagine a vintage from Shandong rivalling the best of Bordeaux, that's exactly what the Berry report predicts over the next 50 years. For now, however, the typical Chinese wine sells for about $5 a bottle, and isn't worth much more.

Still, you might want to make a notation in your datebook to pick up a bottle of Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon 50 years hence. Who knows? It might turn out to be the best plonk for the price on the market.

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