Sunday, January 28, 2007

Imported wine is the latest fad among middle class Chinese. A well-known Shanghai entrepreneur told the owner of the largest wine distributor in China: "Wine is a really good gift. I can give it to somebody, even a government official, and it's not perceived as a bribe."

But wine making here has a long way to go – a group of Australian wine experts recently toured the country's wineries and concluded they were better off selling bulk wine to China rather than investing in any local wineries. Bulk wine is shipped here, combined with other ingredients and then sold as Chinese bottled wine because there aren't yet enough grape for the Chinese to make their own.

Chinese consumers still drink less than a liter per head of wine each year, while the French drink more than 55 liters per head and Americans consume about 8 liters per head, experts say.

Above, corporate lawyer Yao Yi at a recent wine tasting in Beijing. Below, Robert Cho in the the wine cellar of his high-end restaurant Tiandi Yijia off Tiananmen Square.