PEN­FOLDS

... hits the Chi­nese mar­ket in a big way. With a lit­tle help from Coca-cola.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

Red is the most pow­er­ful of colours – fre, blood and the em­bod­i­ment of life when one con­sid­ers its use to vis­ually rep­re­sent the col­lec­tive, beat­ing heart. In Chi­nese cul­ture it’s a symbol of luck, hap­pi­ness, joy – equally im­por­tant in rit­u­als, cer­e­monies and cel­e­bra­tions. And red, the wine, is fast be­com­ing the drink du jour of the coun­try that on some mea­sures has the world’s largest econ­omy. While the want of the bulging, wealthy Red Dragon elite for West­ern lux­ury is well doc­u­mented – par­tic­u­larly in re­gards to fash­ion, food and cars – wine, specif­cally the grapes grow­ing here, is the new de­sire. Lit­tle won­der, then, that ac­claimed Aus­tralian la­bel Pen­folds chose Shang­hai as the global launch for its 2015 col­lec­tion and the an­tic­i­pated 2011 Grange – the frst time in Pen­folds’ deep his­tory that it’s left Aus­tralian shores for such an un­veil­ing. With GQ Aus­tralia among the 300 global guests in at­ten­dance, the evening saw the tow­er­ing China Pavil­ion trans­formed into Pen­folds Pavil­ion for an ex­trav­a­gant party. Guests, hap­pily quaffng the new Pen­folds col­lec­tion, also caught a short flm, The Story of Grange, nar­rated by Rus­sell Crowe with an orig­i­nal mu­si­cal score by Aus­tralia’s David Hirschfelder, who led a live per­for­mance with the Shang­hai Phil­har­monic Orches­tra. Over a few va­ri­etals, Pen­folds’ chief wine­maker, Peter Gago, ex­plains that China’s cur­rent po­si­tion­ing, though not new, is still ex­cit­ing and sig­nif­cant. “It’s been a strate­gic, long-term ap­proach that’s re­cently ramped up,” says Gago, his words di­lut­ing what is a rapid and in­sa­tiable Chi­nese ap­petite for Aus­tralian drops. Ac­cord­ing to Wine Aus­tralia and The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (ABS), Aus­tralian wine ex­ports to Asia have in­creased sig­nif­cantly, es­pe­cially the last fnan­cial year, with 72 mil­lion litres

AUS­TRALIAN WINE EX­PORTS TO CHINA IN­CREASED TO A STAG­GER­ING 53.5 MIL­LION LITRES ($280m) LAST YEAR.

($476m) in 2013-14 lift­ing to 93.4 mil­lion litres ($600m) for 2014-15. Specif­cally, Aus­tralian wine ex­ports to China in­creased by a third, to a stag­ger­ing 53.5 mil­lion litres ($280m) last year. And red wine is lead­ing the way – the top 10 ex­ported bot­tles headed by a strong tri­fecta of the scar­let drop. Shi­raz and shi­raz blends rose to 22.3 mil­lion litres last fnan­cial year – a leap of 41 per cent in 12 months. Over the same pe­riod caber­net sauvi­gnon and caber­net sauvi­gnon blends went up 29 per cent, and mer­lot and mer­lot blends were up 35 per cent. De­spite such im­pres­sive suc­cesses, the Aus­tralian push into China has been a hard, elon­gated slog. As Gago points out, the Chi­nese weren’t even drink­ing red wine when the South Aus­tralian win­ery frst made in­roads in the East two decades ago. “A lot of the early per­cep­tions and in­ter­ac­tions were with the mil­i­tary here,” he ex­plains. “There were no English signs and it was a dif­fer­ent China. And in those days it didn’t much mat­ter if they liked red wine or not, it was a sta­tus thing.” It still is, but aware­ness is greater, as is avail­abil­ity – with sev­eral large-scale Aus­tralian pro­duc­ers also vig­or­ously push­ing into this lu­cra­tive mar­ket. As Gago sees it, the march of lo­cal fne wine is not so much ‘build it and they will come’, or, ‘we know bet­ter’ – rather, a de­gree of ran­dom­ness cloaks the rise of Aussie reds de­pen­dent on the dif­fer­ent tastes of China’s many var­ied re­gions. “Be­cause we make 40-odd dif­fer­ent wines, in that col­lec­tion some­where is a wine that will align with a Sichuan or a Bei­jing or a Shang­hai palate.” And fnd­ing what best works in each ter­ri­tory is on­go­ing – even though Pen­folds and Gago know what’s sold to date. “‘Bin 707’ – gone. ‘389’, ‘407’ – wow, where did that go? That has to say there’s an el­e­ment of a caber­net pref­er­ence or blend, and maybe that links to their higher level and un­der­stand­ing of Bordeaux. In­creas­ingly, there’s more in­ter­est in shi­raz, too.” Grange, con­sid­ered one of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial reds, is also held as the Holy Grail by many Chi­nese en­thu­si­asts. As for the 2011 – time will tell, with the drink­ing win­dow 2018 to 2045. Still, on a cool Shang­hai evening, glasses are flled, emp­tied and raised to China’s in­creas­ingly ed­u­cated tastes and de­sire to sam­ple Aus­tralia’s best. n pen­folds.com

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