Tuesday, December 13, 2011

China and USDA Organic Wine

Earlier this year, I featured a photo with Katrina Frey in her family's Redwood Valley winery with cases of Frey Wine destined for China.

Following up on that conversation, this week I was able to connect with her distributor in China, Hidden Valley Cellars, run by "Morris" Wang (his self-given American first name - his real name is You Wei Wang), to learn more about the reception for wines labeled with the USDA Organic symbol that he is importing.

Fore more information about Hidden Valley Cellars, click here.

So far, Wang, who's based in LA when he's not in China, has sold 4-5,000 cases of wine from three California wineries, or about $500,000 worth of imports.

But he says it's an uphill battle. "People in China do not care about the organic concept. It is more of a time to do education," he says. Because wine education is in such an early stage, consumers are not yet savvy enough to grasp the organic versus regular difference, he says.

However, organic food is a big topic.

"The government is promoting the organic concept a lot," Morris said. "Food safety is a big priority for the government and they talk about it a lot." This, he said, is in response to the many recent scandals where fake things have been added to food - and to wine - in China.

Brian Goldbeck, Consul General of the United States in Guangzhou
holding a bottle of Marilyn Merlot auctioned at the
Quangdong International Wine Spirits Expo in Pazhou
Wang has been promoting both Frey and Madonna Estates certified organically grown wines along with a Napa label called Marilyn Merlot (which apparently contains some organic grapes blended in).

Katrina Frey was invited by Wang to participate in a big symposium and conference on Wine in China, in a program about organic wines, but the event was cancelled.

Another obstacle for California wines in China is the Chinese preference for French wine. "People don't know that much about wine from California," Wang says.

Wine is also very price sensitive in China, he says.

Wang's wife works with a trade group affiliated with the U.S. Consulate in South China.

Quoted on the Chinese news web site Life of Guangzhou, Cecilia Cai, president of Pearl River Delta American Wine Import Association, which promotes American wines in China, said that "American wine has better cost performance than French wine, and has a rich flowery fragrance and strong taste." 

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