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FullSizeRender copyZhong­guo is the Chinese name for China, and trans­lates lit­er­ally as ‘Middle Kingdom’.

It is a coun­try that sits in the middle of the north­ern hemi­sphere, and with 1.4 bil­lion people is a power­ful, re-emer­ging eco­nomy. The say­ing usu­ally goes: ‘If 1 per­cent of China’s pop­u­la­tion enjoyed wine, then the prob­lems of the inter­na­tion­al wine glut would be solved’. As such, China has seen a huge influx of both premi­um wine brands mak­ing a lot of money through prestige, as well as a lot of low-qual­ity wines mak­ing the most of a large mar­ket to soak up volume. Middle Earth is sit­ting quite com­fort­ably in a qual­ity-driv­en middle ground, and is poised to enjoy a kingdom’s preference.

Cheng­du is a mod­est second-tier city of 14 mil­lion people that every year hosts China’s largest wine fair. This year, with the help of New Zea­l­and Trade and Enter­prise, a hand­ful of New Zea­l­and wine pro­du­cers put on a bit of a show and tell. It was mar­vel­lously, chaot­ic­ally, suc­cess­fully swamped by people eager to learn more about New Zealand’s qual­ity wines.

For a coun­try that rep­res­ents 1 per­cent of the China wine mar­ket, New Zea­l­and achieves high­er than aver­age prices per litre on impor­ted wines. Unique for its loc­a­tion with­in a cool, dry, mari­time cli­mate, New Zea­l­and has excep­tion­al con­di­tions for the grape vari­et­ies grown. There are not many places like it. With low yields and a qual­ity repu­ta­tion, New Zea­l­and wines’ high­er price tags are gen­er­ally accep­ted. Add New Zealand’s inter­na­tion­al image as a clean, green, unadul­ter­ated, healthy coun­try, and its wines are viewed as value for money.

The last few years of gov­ern­ment crack­down on extra­vag­ance in China has seen value wines from new world coun­tries play­ing a more import­ant role there. Large-volume pro­du­cers accused of export­ing wine for sale at less than the cost of pro­duc­tion, using China as a dump­ing ground, has added to the emer­ging oppor­tun­ity for New Zea­l­and wine-makers. As Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zea­l­and Winegrow­ers, says, “New Zea­l­and sees China as a long-term rela­tion­ship, worthy of a qual­ity product.”

While the China wine mar­ket is now sta­bil­ising, the trend among the country’s wine-savvy is more explor­a­tion of value-for-money wines. If a res­taur­ant is to have a good wine list, then it must include a New Zea­l­and wine. It is part of China’s cul­ture to haggle for a bar­gain, but it is also part of its cul­ture to appre­ci­ate a qual­ity product.

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