Last year, Spain confirmed its position as the third largest exporter of bottled wines in China, ranking behind France and Australia. According to the latest figures published by the Chinese Duties and Excise authorities, Spanish wine imports in China went up 40.3% by volume to around 1.59 million litres and 43.8% by value to more than US$48.7 million (£30.5 million).
Alexandra Schmedes is the winemaker of Bodegas Ercavio from Spain. For the past couple of years, she has been spending a greater portion of her time introducing her wines in all parts of Asia, including China.
Bodegas Ercavio is a winery located in La Mancha operated by Schmedes, along with her two friends, Margarita Madrigal and Gonzalo Rodriguez. In the beginning, the three winemakers were consultants for projects around the world including Rioja, Italy, Germany, France and South Africa. Then in 1999, they eventually launched their own winery project, Bodegas Ercavio, in hopes of vinifying wines based on indigenous varieties such as Tempranillo, Granacha and Airen. Currently, they are still consulting to a few wineries, but 95% of the team`s time is dedicated to their own winery.
Asian Palate is delighted to get insights from Alexandra Schmedes about the current state of Spanish wines in China.
AP – Asian Palate AS – Alexandra Schmedes
AP: What is your philosophy in winemaking?
AS: As winemakers with many years of experience in renowned international and Spanish wine-growing areas we decided to set up our own winery in a region with great old vineyards and a long wine growing tradition but not much reputation for high quality bottled wines. Our challenge and aim is and was to show that in La Mancha one can make world-class wines. This we have been proving over the last 15 years especially with our wine La Plazuela, which is rated among the world top growths. Important to us is the use of only indigenous grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha and Airen, and to recover almost lost varieties like Malvar.
AP: Which particular features of your winery you are most proud of?
AS: Our climate is very continental – extreme temperature changes from day to night, with long ripening seasons, which helps us grow outstanding fruit. The vineyards are all old bushvines, farmed organically and we have recovered the tradition of using the typical amphoras, called tinajas, in our winemaking process.
AP: For a couple of years now, we know that you have been traveling to many parts of Asia introducing your wines. Which Asia countries your wines have been most successful in so far?
AS: In Asia we started off in Japan, which was soon followed by South Korea, Philippines and Hong Kong & Macau. These are all markets that have well received our wines. We have also been working in China for the last 4 years and see that the acceptance and understanding of Spanish wine has grown and are very excited of the prospect of growing in this market. The Chinese consumer is starting to understand that it does not always have to be a bottle of French wine but that Spain has a lot to offer in quality and also in relation to pricing. Especially younger wine drinkers are keen to start thinking and drinking out of the box, which is right up our street!
AP: What is the feedback you have been receiving in regards to how Spanish wines are positioned in the minds of the Chinese? Can you please comment on the challenges of entering this market?
AS: Obviously the more knowledgeable Chinese consumer knows of wines from Rioja – few have heard from wines of Central Spain, La Mancha. Our aim is to position us with wines from Spain and show that in all of the DOC’s in Spain (currently 68), one can find outstanding wines. It is a bit like showing that you do not always have to buy Bordeaux (when it comes to French wines) but can find amazing, complex, elegant wines in other areas, such as Languedoc. Just as one can in Spain.
AP: Can you please share with us three most memorable Asian food and wine pairings you have ever experienced?
AS: In Osaka we had a Sushi dinner, which paired amazingly with our Ercavio Blanco Airén. Another great meal was a spicy chicken dish, which was served with our Ercavio Tempranillo Roble and the third an amazing Peking Duck, which paired wonderfully with our flagship wine La Plazuela.