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Delhi Wine Club
Vinexpo Hong Kong: Chinese WM is Asian Wine Personality

Posted: Thursday, 31 May 2012 16:18

Vinexpo Hong Kong: Chinese WM is Asian Wine Personality

May 31 : While there are discussions, debates and doubts sometimes expressed over the capability of a woman as winemaker in Italy, Spain, France and definitely in India, a Chinese woman, Judy Leissner- CEO of Grace Vineyard in China has been awarded the Asian Wine Personality of the Year 2012 by the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) and The Drinks Business

The announcement was made at a reception during Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, being held from 29 - 31 May. It needs to be emphasized that the award is not for a woman only  and it may be deduced  that men were also considered for the historical award,  as it is the first year of the institution of the Award in Asia. It follows the already instituted Lifetime Achievement Award announced biennially at Vinexpo. Past recipients include Jean-Michel Cazes (France), Robert Mondavi (US) and Piero Antinori (Italy) according to Drinks Business. The Award also shows the growing power exerted by China in the global arena.

The award for Asian Wine Personality of the Year recognizes outstanding achievement in wine, with special  emphasis on promoting within Asia, whether through viticulture, winemaking, or sales and marketing according to the report.

As the CEO of Grace Vineyard, Leissner speaks regularly at domestic and international conferences and events within Asia and outside. She has attracted global attention to the potential of Chinese wine quality and also has been promoting locally produced fine wines among Chinese consumers.

Grace Vineyard was established in 1997 in China by Judy’s father, a Chinese-Indonesian businessman.  In 2002, she decided to leave her city-based job in the HR department of Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, and took over the management of the 200 hA Grace Vineyard in Shanxi province, south of Beijing.

Although Grace Vineyard began with the plantation of traditional Bordeaux varieties and Chardonnay, Leissner introduced a more experimental approach to the venture, planting grapes like Riesling and Marselan,  Pinot Noir and Shiraz, while turning the operation into a globally recognized brand and flagship for Chinese fine wines.

More recently she has used screwcaps as closures for some of her wines. To ensure an international mindset among her employees, she takes her management team regularly to different famous wine regions like Bordeaux.

The Grace Vineyard wines are aimed at the domestic market although they can be found on wine lists in major capital cities around the world. The winery produces over 2 million bottles each year, and makes a flagship red blend called Deep Blue; the top label is christened as Chairman’s Reserve.

In a tasting of Chinese wines by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate earlier this year, Grace Vineyard was rated as the best white and red wines in the line-up.

Interestingly, the visionary Spanish company Torres has also tied up with Grace Vineyard, producing the Symphonies range with huge success in Main Land China. It has been named as the best Chinese wine for the last two years, according to Marc Perello, Brand Ambassador for Torres in India.

Judy wants her wine to be known for its quality above all, but also for its price/quality ratio. She says “our strategy focus is to have a good reputation rather than just being well-known”. For this reason she eschews the fancy price route and puts her delicious wines on the Chinese market for the very reasonable Chinese equivalent of around 15 Euros. Deep Blue was the first and the only Chinese wine ever to be served on Cathay Pacific First Class in all its 60 years of history, says John Salvi, a frequent guest writer for delWine who featured her for the eNewsletter after a visit to the vineyard with her.

For his article, visit By the Grace of China

Women Want White

While a woman winemaker is ruling the roost, the Chinese women are also showing their clout as consumers and bringing in a change in the wine trends. Although Chinese food is known to match better with white wines, 90% of consumption has been of red wines, partly due to the perception that red wine is healthier and partly because of the prestigious Bordeaux and Burgundy reds.

That trend is now changing with more and more women opting for white wines, especially as their palates get more sophisticated.  According to reports, the last quarter imports show 14% white wine imported. According to International Wine and Spirit Research, the white wine market in China is expected to grow 69 percent between 2011 and 2015, compared to 53 percent for reds and women are expected to play a major role in the shift.

Confirming the trend, Nikki Palun, the export manager of De Bertoli which is imported in India too, says that the trend is more visible in southern China where food is lighter, people are getting more sophisticated and there is more push towards the white wine.


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