Wine Spectator contributing editor Mustacich offers an in-depth account of the cultural and business tensions related to China’s growing desire for fine wines.
The author knows the wine business well, and she holds an enology diploma from the University of Bordeaux. Mustacich begins with a brief historical framework regarding the significance of Bordeaux wines, citing one of George Washington’s first requests as president for “150 bottles of 1785 Château Margaux.” The author explores how the growing market for wines in Asia, first in Japan and later in China, created an upheaval in business and cultural norms. She details the prominent role of the wholesale wine merchant throughout history and the effects of the recent global financial crisis on their relationship with the wine-growing estates. Once wine wholesalers understood the potential created by the Chinese desire for fine wine, speculation took over, and money flooded into the Bordeaux region. With the wave of currency came the usual shenanigans accompanying commodity bubbles. Intent on building wine-centered tourism, Chinese businessmen began snapping up prestigious châteaux in order to entice their fellow countrymen to visit Bordeaux; smuggling and counterfeit wines became common practices. Mustacich shows how a homegrown wine culture began with the planting of vineyards, wine education classes, and wine contests such as the China Wine Challenge, held in Shanghai. The author’s narrative scope is vast, and the number of different business entities and their transactions may be too much data for casual readers. However, the book is a good choice for readers seeking a business-oriented look at the intricacies of the wine business in a radically different cultural, political, and geographical milieu. For those with prior knowledge of how the wine world operates and looking for an educated commentary on China’s rising influence on the growing, buying, and selling of Bordeaux wine, Mustacich’s tale will hit a sweet spot.
A well-researched look into yet another global market undergoing significant growth due to Chinese businesses and consumers.