TREASURY Wine Estates, the former wine arm of brewer Foster's, could one day plant grapes and produce wine in China for the huge domestic Asian market, in line with other Western beverage groups such as Rothschild.
Treasury Wine Estates incoming chairman Paul Rayner has told online publication Decanter.com that sourcing grapes from within China was certainly a possibility in the future for the Australian winemaker.
''All those things are potentially on the agenda and may be looked at further down the track, but at the moment our focus is on importing product from established wineries in Australia and the US - which doesn't require the same level of capital investment,'' he told Decanter.com.
Mr Rayner, who will succeed current Treasury Wine Estates chairman Max Ould on September 1, said growing or sourcing grapes to make wine in China would be in common with other Western producers such as Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), which has planted vineyards in the north-east of the country.
China is proving to be a growing market for Australian wine producers, with the recent and sustained rise in the dollar making it harder to sell into more established and mature markets such as North America and Europe. Figures from Wine Australia show that China has become Australia's third-largest bottled wine buyer, with exports rising 37 per cent to $184 million in 2011. There is also a trend towards premium wines in China, which aligns with Treasury Wine Estates' focus on making and selling higher-priced labels.
Figures from Wine Australia show that China has become Australia's third-largest bottled wine buyer, with exports rising 37 per cent to $184 million in 2011. There is also a trend towards premium wines in China, which aligns with Treasury Wine Estates' focus on making and selling higher-priced labels.
Backing up its push into China, which includes shipping more of its flagship Penfolds Grange into the region as each new vintage is released, Treasury Wine Estates recently appointed Hong Kong resident and former president and CEO of Wal-Mart China Ed Chan as a director. Other recently appointed directors also have international beverage or retail experience.
''The appointments confirm the strategy, which is that we have seen quite good growth in Asia for premium brands and specifically we see opportunities in China,'' Mr Rayner told Decanter.com.
He said Treasury Wine Estate's strategy in China would be to push the premium and icon brands, particularly Grange and top Penfolds wines such as the premium Bins and St Henri. Wolf Blass - ''at mid-range price points'' - would also be promoted.
''There has been major growth in the market for French premium wines; what we need to do is to ensure the Chinese market understands there are some wonderful premium wines coming out of Australia,'' Mr Rayner said.