American Wine Producers Target China

    25 July, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    American wine producers are hoping to increase their sales in China, where the country's growing middle class is drinking wine. The United States exported just $74 million in wine to China last year, but exports are growing at a rate of nearly 20 percent a year.

    Two years ago, former basketball star Yao Ming launched a wine company called Yao Family Wines. It is based in California's Napa Valley, one of the top wine producing areas in the world. Tom Hinde is with Yao Family Wines.

    "We've made five vintages together. Actually, we're working on the 2013 right here. You can see that these grapes will be ripe sometime this fall, and we get to do it all over again."

    Yao Family Wines is a small winery that produces a costly product. Tom Hinde says the vineyard grows only Cabernet Sauvignon grapes because many people in China like red wine. The winery's top cabernet sells for $625 a bottle.

    Many moderately priced wines are exported to China, they including some from the San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles. Fifteen percent of its production goes to China.

    The Wine Institute represents more than 1,000 wineries and allied businesses through California. Linsey Gallagher of The Wine Institute says her group is always receiving request from China. But she says the country is a problem for marketing.

    "They know a lot of the aspirational, iconic things about California, whether that's Hollywood in Southern California or the Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California or our previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. By and large, they have no idea that California is the fourth largest wine producing region in the world and makes great quality wines at all price points."

    Winemakers hope to expand the market for fine dry wines, including white wines, which are now a small part of the Chinese market.

    Adam Beak of Bank of the West works with California winemakers. He knows they are competing with European companies, some of which entered the Chinese market many years ago.

    "And they've developed a brand there. They've developed a name, especially for the French companies on the fine wine side, they're developed a real strong market presence. The U.S. is still in its infancy. "

    But China's middle class is growing fast, Tom Hinde of Yao Family Wines is hopeful that more Chinese will develop a taste for imported wine.

    "They'll want to drive certain cars, and they'll want to live in certain types of apartments and houses, and they'll want to wear certain clothes and enjoy certain types of wines."

    And he hopes many of those wines will come from California.

    And that's the Economics Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.