The State of Grace
The celebrated family-run Chinese company released seven new wines at Vinexpo HK 2016
Grace Vineyard in Shanxi province in China had a number of new products on show at Vinexpo HK 2016. We asked CEO Judy Chan how successful this show had been for her.
This year, I think the show has gone better than last time around, because the audience that’s coming are really in the industry. We have been having good discussions with business partners, industry colleagues, and overall I have to say it’s been a very nice set up. We have been exhibiting with Vinexpo since the very beginning, so people here this year who had seen us before witnessed the ‘journey’ we have been undertaking and the improvements we’ve made. People are always surprised that we continue to have new things coming out.
In a very short time, you have taken your wines to the “top of the table”, with visibility in some of the most prestigious places in China. How have you been able to achieve this?
I think timing is crucial. The market wanted a high quality locally produced wine, which is exactly what we are. Unlike our competitors, we are a familyowned, personal producers. We were able to build a connection with the consumers.
What difference does it make being a family business as opposed to being owned by a big conglomerate?
We actually had this discussion on a panel at the show, along with Treasury Wine Estates, Pernod Ricard and Castel. I think one advantage we have is in being such a small producer in comparison to them is that while for them, to invest in developing new product in a run of 20,000 bottles, it wouldn’t make economic sense, whereas for us it does.
What new products have you been presenting at this year’s show?
We have four sparkling wines and three new reds at this show. We began the project to make sparkling wines in 2009, but only launched them officially this year.
Sparkling wines have yet to take off in China … how do you expect yours to go?
We also believe that it will be some time before they are widely accepted by the consumers, so we haven’t planned to go too big, but with the education of the market about sparkling wines, business will pick up. We are aiming for a younger market. People at the show have been very pleasantly surprised by the wines.
WHILE EVERYONE FOCUSES ON RED WINES, I WANT TO MAKE A TOP QUALITY WHITE WINE.
How could you best describe your wines? What sets them apart?
We and our wines are both pioneers. We were the first few to focus on quality instead of quantity. Next year is our 20- year anniversary. I know it’s not long in the industry, but it’s pretty long in Chinese wine industry. I can proudly say that we have consistently and continuously produce quality wines, and have not stopped experimenting. As I mentioned, we started working on sparkling wines in 2009. We were to first to make Aglianico, Marsalen and Shiraz, which were launched last year. I think it’s the pioneer spirit that sets us apart from the others.
What are your ambitions for the coming year(s)?
My ambitions are to be able to identify the varieties that are most suitable for our terroir, and to make a wine with a distinctive character. While everyone focuses on red wines, I want to make a top quality white wine.
As you mentioned earlier, you are a faithful Vinexpo exhibitor. What makes Vinexpo important with regard to your international strategy?
It’s a great platform to showcase what we are doing and exchange idea/ information with others, not to mention the media coverage we got.
How important is the show in terms of helping to get your name and products known?
I think it’s a great window into the international market. We wouldn’t miss it.
What was your greatest Vinexpo moment?
Our booth was often full of people who wanted to taste our wines. I remember some of my friends jokingly said those were paid actors. I couldn’t help but laugh.