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Allegrini 2018
LOOKING TO THE EAST

The wine world is celebrating the year of the Ox, while interest in China is dwindling in Italy

The examples from Castiglion del Bosco and Feudi San Gregorio. After the collapse in 2020, we need to recover and learn from France and Australia

China has entered the year of the Ox, symbol of prosperity, stemming from strength and work, and definitely a good omen, especially after the challenging, to say the least, 2020. Beijing, however, has dealt with 2020 in the best way possible, closing the GDP by a + 2.1%, growth, which makes the Asian giant the driving force of world economy. It is essential to stay close to the driving force, even though today it is physically unapproachable, for the wine sector, as well, which has invested so much in terms of promotion, in a country as promising as it is complex, where both wine companies and consortia have often moved in a fragmented manner. The result is that in the first 10 months of 2020 (hoping there will be an improvement in December), shipments of Italian wine to China did not go over, in value, 70 million euros, marking a 28.3% decrease, compared to the same period in 2019.
This performance is quite troubling, but on the other hand, it is in line with most of our competitors. The real limit for Italian wine is the starting point, as China, to date, is only the eleventh market, and has been surpassed in just one year by Austria, Russia and Norway. This is way too little for a country that has unlimited potential, and in which competition is certainly no holds barred, but it is also in enormous difficulty.
France has been paying the price of the tightening of public spending for fine wines and other luxury goods, since 2018, while Australia, since December, has been encumbered with such high duties as to risk canceling shipments. All of these signs should push Italian wineries to move towards the conquest of China with a shared strategy. Instead, the very year of the Ox, which began on February 12th, marks the enormous distance that still separates us from Beijing. On the social bulletin boards of the vast majority of the most important wine companies and consortia in Italy, there is no trace of what is the most important day in China.
There are exceptions, of course, but the feeling is that attention is really too low for a distant, but far from an enigmatic culture, especially in an era like the one we are living in, where no distance is really unreachable. There are those, instead, that since 2013 have decided to pay close attention to the East, like Castiglion del Bosco, the Massimo Ferragamo wine, which has dedicated its “Zodiac Collection” to China. Each year, a selection of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, in magnum, is interpreted by a different artist, and illustrated according to the Chinese zodiac sign. This year, Fiona Corsini, a “family” artist, very close to the Ferragamos will interpret the Ox. Feudi di San Gregorio, the reference wine company in Irpinia, has also thought of a limited edition of Irpinia Aglianico DOC and a label dedicated to the year of the Ox.
In the rest of the world, however, the top wine players are used to celebrating the Chinese New Year, and some do it in style. For instance, the most prestigious Australian winery, Penfold’s, which is enormously popular in China, and for the year of the Ox has launched an ad hoc edition of Bin 389. In the variegated world of Champagne, a brand like Billecart-Salmon has instead decided on a celebratory case of wine signed by the artist Lin Ke for its rosé. Further, there are those who play a winning game, like the Spanish giant Torres: Sangre de Toro is one of the most popular denominations, in terms of price as well, therefore, the label (although the bull is not the Ox ...) only needed a little makeover. In addition, just to name a few other examples, there is the “Big Bull Merlot” by Auswan Creek, the “Limited Edition Ox Shiraz” by Chateau Tanunda and the “Mighty Ox Shiraz” by St. Hallett, not surprisingly all from neighboring Australia.

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