With demand for wine in China ripening – both for domestically produced and, more dramatically, imported wines – one of the country’s most recognizable faces is taking aim at the market. From The Wall Street Journal:
While Yao Ming was growing up in Shanghai, wine was served with ice cubes. It wasn’t until the 7-foot-6-inch Chinese basketball player spent time with National Basketball Association teammate Dikembe Mutombo, a 7-foot-2-inch Congolese player, that he began to appreciate wine.
“I always watched him at our dinners and I’d sometimes ask him ‘Why are you doing that?'” said Mr. Yao, swirling an imaginary glass. “I was just trying to copy him.”
Now retired and living in his native Shanghai, Mr. Yao is an unlikely connoisseur and a trailblazer on the Chinese wine scene. The 31-year-old is launching his own Californian winery geared exclusively for the Chinese market this week called Yao Family Wines. Distributed by French beverage giant Pernod Ricard SA, bottles in the first 5,000-case run will be labeled simply Yao Ming and aimed at the top end of the market.
According to the article, Yao will miss class at Shanghai Jiaotong University this week for one of the many launch events associated with his new winery. For additional CDT coverage of China’s wine market, see reports of a scandal involving chemicals allegedly added to a domestic brand in Hebei province and one whistleblower’s quest to expose the dirty secrets of the industry. See also an interview with the president of one of China’s most successful wineries.