Among the things that Ningxia, a tiny autonomous region in northwest China, can boast are a per-capita GDP of $5,700, a one-in-six poverty rate and the largest concentration of Muslims in the Yellow River delta.
And now, a splendid French chateau.
That’s thanks to Moët Hennessy, which just unveiled Chandon—as it christened its chateau—in its bid to attract “young consumers looking for a high-quality lifestyle,” as China Daily reports. Nestled between the Yellow River and the foot of Helan Mountain, Chandon is attached to a chardonnay, chenin blanc and pinot noir vineyard and will feature a wine-tasting service center to slake the thirsts of China’s budding wine-snob set.
Not that that’ll be easy. Though China is the world’s fifth-largest wine market, people just don’t go for bubbly that much. Only one out of every 200 bottles drunk in China is sparkling, versus 7% globally, says the Wall Street Journal. “The Chinese ignore the sparkling wines right now,” Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo, told the WSJ.
And though Moët Hennessy makes a variety of booze, its specialties are Moët, Dom Perignon and Krug—all of them things that fizz.
Its conversion effort has been in the works for a while, though. The company began planting in Ningxia a few years back in a bid to produce sparkling wine for the Chinese market. Its wine experts liken the Ningxia soil and climate to those of Rheims, where grapes for champagne are grown. And since only wine grown in the Champagne region of France is permitted to be labelled “champagne,” its sparkling wine will be marketed under the Chandon brand.
Moët Hennessy’s not the only one chasing the Chinese champagne market; Pernod Ricard, maker of Mumm, has already invested in its own Chinese brand, Helan Mountain, also to be produced in Ningxia.
And it’s probably not a moment too soon—yesterday, China formally launched its investigation into European Union dumping of wine. That could ultimately result in higher prices for imported wines.