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China goes crackers for Hanging Rock Shiraz
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The Chinese custom of letting off fireworks and giving expensive gifts at Chinese New Year was a fortuitous one for a small Victorian wine producer.
The phone call came early one evening in May 2007. A Mr. Wei, speaking in good English, was enquiring of Hanging Rock Winery if they could supply him with a significant quantity of super premium Shiraz for his Chinese customers
“I remember thinking as I took the call, here we go again, another Chinese opportunist wanting high quality Australian red wine for $1 a bottle,” recalls Hanging Rock’s CEO and Chief Winemaker John Ellis.
Somewhat distractedly I asked him what price point he was looking at, he replied “about $20”. “Per case?” I asked. “No, per bottle”, came the reply. “Suddenly he had my full attention,” said John.
That was in May. Around the 15th of December three containers of wine were loaded onto the ship, the money was in the bank and Mr. Wei had bought himself over half a million dollars worth of Hanging Rock wine, the majority of which was the flagship Heathcote Shiraz, along with some other super premium reds.
“We understand that a major part of the order will be distributed by Chinese companies as New Year gifts to valued customers; the balance will go into on-premise markets,” said Mr. Ellis.
John went on to explain the complexity of the order, “We believe that this is probably the largest premium wine order ever sold into China by a small Australian producer. Apart from the sheer size, the complexity was mind boggling. We had 5 variations of wine type and vintage plus two bottle sizes, spread across four importers to be identified on their particular selections of the five wines. All in all we had to produce and translate into Mandarin, 36 different back labels. In the process we learnt that there are several ways to write ‘Hanging Rock’ in Mandarin.”
“It’s no wonder that Chinese New Year has taken on a new significance here at Hanging Rock. There’s talk of follow-up orders too, and that’s bound to be easier than the first,” concluded John.