Opinion

From eyes to beak

It is already known, the world of wine is made of fashions and now, who dictates fashion are asian countries, in particular China that has the greatest purchasing power. Portuguese producers have long realized that and are 'catching the wave'. The Chinese are the largest importers of top French wine (and also the biggest counterfeiters) coming to build châteaux identical to those of Bordeaux with stones and land brought from origin, in order to imitate the originals as best as possible.

Money can almost anything, it is true, and the Chinese are capricious and capable of great eccentricities. To add to these situations, they have now decided to start buying old wines, which they may not even appreciate, but want to have because it is synonymous with status. Some time ago, a producer from the Lisbon region was contacted by buyers from China interested in purchasing old wines. Reds over (and some less) than 20 years, which have certainly already been sold. In alentejo, a recognized winemaker and producer of our square, recently traveled to Macau and, in one of the most important casinos in the city, was immediately able to dispatch his stock of the red of the 2001 harvest. Not enough old wines, the Chinese now also want to buy verticals (wines of the same brand of different years).

That I remember, in Portugal I have never seen for sale any wine vertical in wine cellars or supermarkets. It is not a habit and neither producers are waiting for the consumer to be interested in tasting wines from previous harvests and therefore do not even keep old wines for commercial purposes. But the Chinese now want to. If the producers have verticals, all right, otherwise they could get in trouble... Another well-known Alentejo producer was literally forced to resort to his private wine cellar to be able to satisfy a request from his importer from Hong Kong and Macau, even being threatened: If he did not have several crops of his brand, the next wine orders could be cancelled (for that importer, verticalones are crucial to selling more wine).

Not to vary, in Portugal, the fashion of verticals has already arrived late. For some time now, several well-known international wineries have responded to the demands of Chinese consumers. Even recently, the renowned Australian winery Penfolds has put on sale its most expensive set of wines to date, a complete vertical that runs from its first harvest (1951), until 2007, valued at 1.2 million euros. Each of the bottles was authenticated and signed by winemakers in the cellar, including founders Max Schubert, John Duval and current owner Peter Gago. Included in this collection is a box with 13 Magnum bottles, including two very rare, bin 60A 2004 and Bin 620 2008 Coonawarra Cabernet-Shiraz, as well as some wines to be consumed over the next 10 years. I believe it's penfolds' most expensive wine set sold so far. Portuguese producers may not be lucky enough to see the prices of their verticals reach so high, but having China interested in our wines is already very good, not only for the good leveling of quality that we already have in the international market but by the business that helps fight the crisis we are experiencing today.