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This article titled “Waitrose tests the water with Chinese and Brazilian wines” was written by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, for guardian.co.uk on Sunday 12th August 2012 14.05 UTC
Waitrose is to become the first UK supermarket to stock wines from China and Brazil later this month.
Following its launch of two Indian wines last year, the supermarket is keen to encourage less familiar wine-producing countries to establish themselves in the UK.
The Chinese wine going on sale is Changyu Cabernet Gernischt, described as “a spicy, aromatic and juicy red” and retailing at £9.99. But while Chinese wine is new to British supermarkets, its producer – the Changyu Wine Group – is the oldest and biggest in the country. The wine is made in central western China on the edge of the Gobi desert.
China has a long history of winemaking but it has struggled for credibility with its serious native wine drinkers favouring imports from France and Australia. Chinese producers got a boost this year in the prestigious International Wine Challenge (IWC), when nine wines received some form of recognition including a silver medal.
As attention turns away from the London 2012 Olympics and towards Rio in four years, Waitrose is also the first supermarket to introduce a wine from Brazil – a sparkling Miolo cuvée rose – which will sell for £11.99.
Waitrose wine buyer Katie Mollet said: “We’re bringing in a new era of lesser known wines being sold in the UK as the interest in China, and more specifically the Chinese wine industry, continues to grow. We scour the world to find exciting new wines and were particularly impressed by the Cabernet Gernischt 2011 from Changyu.”
She said she hoped the chain would help raise awareness of Chinese and Brazilian wine among UK consumers, “and we think they will enjoy this voyage of discovery with us. The Changyu is also a great to drink with a Friday night takeaway; perfect with Chinese style beef with ginger and spring onion.”
Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter magazine, said: “China is already the fifth largest wine producer in the world and while much of the quality is pretty mediocre, it’s inevitable that at the top end, as knowhow improves (often via the employment of overseas consultants) and the best regions are identified, it will start turning out some decent wines, worthy of export.”
But he warned: “Whether or not UK consumers will give such wines a try is another matter. A lot depends on the country’s image, which people buy into when they select wine – and I’d expect that Brazil, being close to established winemaking countries like Chile and Argentina, has an advantage here. China might be a harder sell, although I have tried this wine and it is very decent.”
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