Who wields the most influence on wine in China? As the year of the dragon kicks off soon, I put this question to various China insiders.
Ian Ford, partner at Summergate, a leading wine importer to China: Yao Ming. He is a mega-star and having him talking about his new wine from California is not just good for California wine, it’s good for all of wine in China. [Summergate does not import the new Yao wines – Ed.]
Jeannie Cho Lee, Master of Wine, author of Asian Palate & Mastering Wine: Han Changfu the current Minister of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China; controls all national agricultural regulations including wine and can move entire market with one policy change.
Jamie Ritchie, CEO & President, Americas and Asia, Sotheby’s Wine. The Government: who controls both supply and price. By keeping zero tax on wine in Hong Kong, you have this thriving market, that we all know and love (even despite this short term scaling back in demand/prices). In Mainland China, the same is true, as the import/hygiene restrictions limit a more free and open market. A favorable regulatory environment is the most important key to any market.
Debra Meiburg a Master of Wine based in Hong Kong: That’s a tough question. The mainland market is quite fragmented. Voices in Beijing are unknown in Shanghai and vice versa. Don St. Pierre or the Summergate teams are obvious choices as the leading fine wine importers in China. The domestic industry is stepping up their game and in that regard Professor Li Demei is highly influential (Chinese Agricultural University) as well as Professor Ma Huiquin. The auction houses capture the international headlines, but are connecting with a small number of people with deep pockets.