I can’t stop reading and thinking about China and wine. Perhaps topical stories are catching my eye, since I am tuned into the subject due to my visit to China in June; nonetheless, I have discovered another new development. It seems the looming tidal wave of Chinese wine consumption has finally reached local NY shores—or rather, we have gone to theirs, hoping to catch a ride in on the money wave: New York State Wine Outlet opens in Shanghai! Unfortunately, my visit was a month before the opening of this exciting experiment, or else I would have liked to see how the Chinese represent NY wines to the local populace. Currently, Chinese wine consumption is estimated at 1 measly bottle a head per year (I know some people who can put one back in a night—not good either though). This figure may sound small, but there are 1.3 billion humans over there, and consumption and income are ballooning.
It seems, rightfully so, that New York wants a slice of the egg custard (particularly if it is from Lord Stow’s in Macau. Me too!) Empire State Cellars (the only all NY wine store), owned by Peconic Bay Winery in the North Fork, was commissioned with creating an assortment of 30 wines representative of different regions and styles from NY State. Wineries that comprised the initial shipment included: Anthony Road Wine Company, Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters Winery, Hudson-Chatham Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, Medolla Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, Peconic Bay Winery, Shaw Vineyard and Shinn Estate Vineyards.
The Outlet itself is meant as a resource for trading, selling and showcasing NY wines plus the venue will host trade shows, promotional events and matchmaking (no, not like Elimidate) for distributors and buyers. Why is this exciting beyond merely the opportunity for New York to stake a claim in unchartered China? It was only a decade ago that NY State wines lacked the quality-price ratio (QPR) to compete nationally, let alone globally. I am sure many will pick a bone with that statement, but I stand by it having spent more than a decade tasting and mostly spitting the wines. However, in the last 5-6 years the vino has improved tremendously across the board; call it better weather (global warming) or better technique, or both. Either way, the price points look much more reasonable when the juice in the glass has balance, complexity and is delicious to drink.
So, what does the New York State Wine and Spints (yes, not Spirits) website look like? Kind of hilarious. Having just come back from China, I am familiar with the theme of poor Chinese –English translation and spelling, coupled with jumbled site design. They definitely have some work to do on the NYSWO website. For instance, some of the NY wineries have their names misspelled: sparking ponte vineyards should be Sparkling Pointe and lieb family cellards is, well, obvious. Also, content was lacking and functionality was off. I was the 76th visitor; my husband, 15 minutes later, was the 72nd. Maybe they are counting down from a million and #1 will win a prize! I applaud the efforts here, but wonder why winemakers stateside aren’t insisting on a few fixes, given there is a large population of English speaking expats in Shanghai. Maybe the Chinese version of the site looks better-unfortunately, I can’t read it!