Speculations are running high inside China that Australia’s most known wine brand Penfolds is a step closer in launching its Chinese Penfolds, reportedly made by blending wines from the country’s premier wine region Ningxia and South Australia.
According to a report by WBO, Penfolds has zeroed in on roughly 10 out of 80 wineries in Ningxia to provide juice for testing before the final blend in what an insider familiar with the project described as in line with Penfolds’ multi-region winemaking philosophy and a stamp for quality assurance.
The wines will be reportedly bottled in Ningxia, and two wineries in the region have already been tapped for the bottling production, according to the report.
Penfolds earlier have already started bottling in China’s eastern Shandong province for Penfolds Max’s series for Chinese New Year, as we have reported. But different from the Ningxia operation, the wines were only bottled in Shandong, without using local grapes.
Vino Joy News has reached out to Penfolds’ parent company Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), but the group replied, “we don’t have any further comment on the rumors and speculation.”
AMBITIOUS YET CONTROVERSIAL
This if confirmed would be the company’s most ambitious yet controversial step to leverage its brand name to sell Australian-packaged Chinese Penfolds back to the lucrative Chinese market, after Australian wines sales plunged over 90% since China’s punitive tariffs.
TWE has made its intension clear that Chinese wine market is too big for the group to give up ever since the tariff row. Formerly the biggest Australian wine exporter by value to the Chinese market, TWE was exporting 25% of its top-quality Penfolds range to the market.
With crippling tariffs up to 218% and ensuing pivot to other markets to absorb loss from China, the market is still too big to lose and the Australian wine giant was quick to state that it did not rule out making wines inside China.
TWE CEO Tim Ford recently confirmed in an interview that a Chinese Penfolds is in the making after praising Chinese wine’s quality improvement over the years.
Reactions however for the idea of Chinese homegrown Penfolds are mixed, if not outright negative among wine trade.
Some acknowledged the move would validate and boost Ningxia’s wine image, saying it’s a great opportunity to rejuvenate Ningxia’s wine industry.
Some are shunning the move as a tactic to bypass punitive tariff, while others questioned if it is an abuse of Penfolds’ name and its brand integrity.
“Zero interest at all. Better drink Ningxia wines instead,” one user commented. It became the most liked comment from the WBO article.
Some went even further to berate the move with heavy hints of nationalism and pointed fingers at Chinese wineries that were willing to collaborate with Penfolds.
One unnamed insider quoted by a Chinese leading drinks publication Jiuyejia, asked, “Is it really just because Ningxia’s wines are of good quality that Australia’s Penfolds has gone to Ningxia for bottling? Is TWE planning to sell Ningxia’s wines to foreign markets?”
In the face of profit, there will always be wineries willing to provide resources for such an Australian company, there will also be wine merchants willing to sell it, and there will always be organizations clamoring and advocating it. Will this be good for our country? Is it good for the development of the Chinese wine industry?”