A remote area in the Himalayas now the site of world-class wine

World Today

A remote area in the Himalayas now the site of world-class wine

It’s clear:  China has a love of wine.

While wine consumption is on the decline in Europe, it’s soaring in China.

With that demand, the country is trying to make its mark as a wine producer.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo has more.

An area at the foot of the Himalayas is known for its high altitudes, impressive scenery and now world-class wine.

It all started with Maxence Dulou of the French luxury wine firm Moet Hennessy.

For four years, he and his company searched far and wide in China for an ideal spot for cultivating a first-class red grape.

They found it, here in this remote area in China located in the middle of three rivers with moderate temperatures year-round.

“Each terroir needs to be treated differently, so this is indeed very complicated, it is unique to our terroir,” explained Dulou. 

And thus, the Chinese label “Ao Yun” was born.

It churns out 2,000 cases a year of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

“Wine production worldwide is relatively in surplus,” said Li Demei of the Wine Branch of the China Alcoholic Drinks Association.  “Therefore, creating new markets has become a strong desire of wine industries across the world.”

Ao Yun is offering a new choice amid China’s burgeoning demand for wine.

By 2020, China is expected to become the world’s second-largest wine consuming country by value, surpassing France and the United Kingdom and finishing just behind the United States.

“In China, first of all, as people are becoming wealthier, they’re focusing more on their spiritual happiness,” said Ella Zhong, co-founder of Chic Choc. “They want more from life, and they know how to truly appreciate something, instead of how much it costs.”

Ao Yun will have the challenge of convincing Chinese consumers to drink wine that’s home-grown and sometimes criticized for being inconsistent.

According to research firm Euromonitor, while consumption of imported wine has grown, domestic wine sales plunged for a fifth straight year.

“I drink imported wine more often, because I like the taste of different soils of foreign countries,” said Zi Lu, a wine lover.

“Indeed, there is a bad connotation to ‘Made in China’ but everything we do, we do with passion to make the best wine possible, and I think that we are one of the companies that are revamping ‘Made in China,’ said Dulou.

But, Ao Yun is making stride.

At $300 a bottle, its wine is sold not just in China but around the world.

“A lot of our customers find this wine very interesting,” said Paul Wong, a sommelier.  “After tasting it, they find that it differs a lot from other Chinese red wine.”

“It’s been quite surprising to our customers, because when they tasted this bottle of wine, most of them thought it was a Bordeaux-side wine, but finally they found that the bottle is from China,” said Felix Ho, a sommelier.  “All of them are quite excited.  They are quite surprised by the quality of this bottle.”