CHINA-ti CLASSICO? On the Wine & Silk Road in China


Tuscany or Tian Shan ? Tuscany or Tian Shan?

I’ve been talking with Jennifer Hong, who is making wine in this moment, in the foothills of the Tian Shan mountain range in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Ms. Hong commutes between there and her home in San Francisco. The winery is a joint Chinese-American wine project called China Silk Wines. While she is supervising the harvest in China and Italians are wrapping up their work in the wine hills of Tuscany and beyond, allow me to give free-range to my imagination.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Italian silk market dominated the world. From ancient tales of Marco Polo to the more contemporary story, Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, Italy and China has been linked with the noble cloth. Now, China is doing the exploring, buying little silk factories that dot the landscape in the Italian hillsides. My recent trip to Tuscany has revealed that some very important winery estates have also been talking to investors from China, the new multi-millionaires, who are looking to get into the Brunello and Chianti business.

While I don’t think it likely that we will see a Chianti made in China, what I call a China-ti, it appears that the vineyards in China are growing, as is interest in wine from the East. Two articles and a blog posting recently underscore the interest, one from USA Today, and one from the Dallas Morning News (online subscription required - no charge), reveal an uptick in interest on the wines of China. Blogs are also chiming in, (China:Get Thee To A Winery ).

Italian producers have been traveling to China for some time, from Antinori and Ruffino, Banfi and Bolla to the newer generation of explorers from Planeta, Querciabella, to Castello di Monastero and Capezzana. Some of these entepreneurs have experience working with Asia in their other businesses, from auto parts manufacturing to civil engineering. So the transition to wine is, shall we say, as seamless as a silk skirt.

Look forward to more comment on wines being marketed to China, and the new wines coming out of their vineyards. After all, something has to come back from the East in the ships besides plastic spoons, which I’m sure we all have enough of!

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Reader Comments

Daily we see news flashes about Australia’s wine glut and as of late their concern with global warming. Well you ain’t seen nothing yet Australia. Wait till China’s slow moving steam locomotive wine trade becomes a speeding bullet train. The potential of China’s production is huge. Will Constellation Brands, the world’s largest wine producer, buy into China or will Chinese money gobble up Constellation? I’ll be following this one closely on my blog.

Thanks for the insight. Already,China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com) has a posting about China and Wine.
We live in interesting times.