Young wine tar­gets young con­sumers

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - In Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is re­leased ev­ery year on the third Thurs­day of Novem­ber, and the oc­ca­sion is marked by nu­mer­ous fes­tiv­i­ties all over France as rev­el­ers un­cork bot­tles to sa­vor this light and fruity red wine.

For the first time in the wine’s his­tory, a Chi­nese am­bas­sador named Yan Zhuyin be­came a part of the famed cel­e­bra­tions last year. Yan, a Shen­zhen na­tive and a vis­ual de­sign ma­jor who had just grad­u­ated from uni­ver­sity, earned her spot af­ter win­ning the Miss Beau­jo­lais China beauty pageant which was aimed at pro­mot­ing the wine in the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try.

In a long lace dress and a sparkling tiara, the 22-yearold joined the win­ner of Miss Beau­jo­lais France for the big­gest party that was held in Les Sar­mentelles to un­cork the wine pre­cisely at the stroke of mid­night, fol­low­ing a se­ries of fire­works, light­ing shows and elab­o­rate Moulin-Rouge-style dance per­for­mances.

“I guess I won the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause I am the youngest among the three con­tes­tants and have a thriv­ing thirst for the wine,” said Yan, who ad­mit­ted that she had been dream­ing about be­com­ing part of the famed fes­ti­val ever since learn­ing about it when she was an ex­change stu­dent in Taipei four years ago.

“Miss Beau­jo­lais should be a young and mod­ern lady who is well-fit­ted to the Beau­jo­lais im­age,” said Aurélie Vabre, ex­port pro­mo­tion of­fi­cer of the Beau­jo­lais wine re­gion, about one of the rea­sons why Yan was cho­sen to rep­re­sent the wine.

Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is a vins primeurs, a cat­e­gory of wines that are sold in the same year they are har­vested. It is a red wine that is meant to be con­sumed young and is made from Ga­may grapes hand­picked from the Beau­jo­lais re­gion which bor­ders the more rec­og­nized Bur­gundy re­gion in south­east­ern France.

Its taste has been com­pared to a young bal­le­rina’s first at­tempt to stand on her toes; and its spirit has been cham­pi­oned by French poet Robert Sa­batier who once wrote “be young as a Beau­jo­lais and age as a Bur­gundy”.

While opin­ions about the qual­ity of the fast wine have been di­vi­sive, the un­cork­ing of the first bot­tle of Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau has been a widely cel­e­brated af­fair since the 1950s af­ter World War II.

It was not un­til the 1960s and 70s that some win­ery own­ers de­cided to mar­ket the wine by turn­ing the race to ex­port newly bottled wine into an event it­self. The ini­tial date of re­lease was Nov 15 but this was changed in 1985 to the third Thurs­day of Novem­ber as winer­ies wanted peo­ple to cel­e­brate into the week­end.

Yan’s ap­point­ment as an am­bas­sador in­di­cates the amount of po­ten­tial Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau mak­ers see in the Chi­nese mar­ket. Ja­pan and the United States are two of the largest over­seas mar­kets for the wine but they don’t have a Miss Beau­jo­lais of their own.

Ac­cord­ing to the wine’s pro­mo­tion of­fice, China started to of­fi­cially im­port Beau­jo­lais wines around 2005 at the vol­ume of close to 80,000 bot­tles. Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau, like the en­tire im­ported wine mar­ket in China, had en­joyed ro­bust growth — it hit three dig­its at its peak — un­til it was af­fected by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign in 2013.

The im­port of Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau has grad­u­ally picked up over the past two years. In 2015, about 530,000 bot­tles of the wine made by some 70 es­tates and winer­ies were brought into China. While this amount is small com­pared to the 8 mil­lion bot­tles that en­ter Ja­pan ev­ery year, wine mak­ers are con­fi­dent that China will emerge as their big­gest im­porters within the decade.

“Beau­jo­lais is well-suited for young peo­ple who are not used to drink­ing wines. The light­ness and fruiti­ness is good for the Chi­nese palate,” said Vabre.

Sev­eral in­dus­try ex­perts in China be­lieve that the growth of young wines like Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau will hinge on con­sumers who are born in the 1990s. Un­like their par­ents, con­sid­ered the first gen­er­a­tion of wine con­sumers in China, these young con­sumers don’ t be­lieve that drink­ing wine should be lim­ited to ex­pen­sive bot­tles from fa­mous brands or re­gions.

Yan, who grew up in a fam­ily that is in­volved in the wine trad­ing busi­ness, echoed this sen­ti­ment.

“I’ve had enough about all these talks about tan­ning, ter­rior or other jar­gons. Drink­ing wine is first and fore­most about hav­ing fun and en­joy­ment, isn’t it?” said Yan.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Yan Zhuyin, the Chi­nese am­bas­sador for Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau, rep­re­sents the wine mak­ers’ am­bi­tions to break into the Chi­nese mar­ket.

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