CHINESE WEILONG'S AUSSIE WINERY STARTS MAKING WINES SOLELY FOR CHINA MARKET
By David Ma
China's third largest wine producer Weilong Grape Wine Company has started processing its first vintage in its Australian facility near Mildura in Northwest Victoria after three years of preparation. Every bottle made here will be shipped back to China to be sold under the company’s Grand Dragon brand.
The local Sunraysia Daily newspaper reported that the AUD79 million facility will process 25,000 tonnes of mainly red wine grapes for the inaugural vintage.
“We planned to have the wine bottled by the end of the year, and on sale for Chinese New Year in January 2020,” said Bruno Zappia, Weilong's Australian operations general manager.
Weilong, which sells wines under the Grand Dragon label, is China’s third biggest wine producer after Changyu and Great Wall. It also prides itself as pioneer of organic wine making in China.
The company started construction of the facility in Mildura in 2016, the plan is to build a winery with initial capacity of 60,000 tonnes a year, gradually expanding to 170,000 tonnes with total investment over AUD110 million.
“At the moment we have council approval to go to 80,000 tonnes. We'll go up by 20,000-tonne increments every year and then reassess and try to get council approval for 168,000 tonnes. The winery has the capacity to reach 170,000 tonnes,” said Winery Manager Andrew Allen.
Weilong’s strategy is to use its existing distribution network in China to sell higher-quality Australian wine, which is increasingly popular among mainland consumers.
The company has bought three vineyards covering a total of 484 hectares in the Swan Hill and Mildura regions. Another vineyard was purchased in the Murray-Darling region in New South Wales. Expansion plans for the future include 605 hectares of vineyard locations to satisfy demand in China.
According to Wine Australia, Australian wine exports to Northeast Asia increased 51 percent in the past financial year and were worth AUD1.2 billion.
(the writer can be contacted at: DavidMa@thewinechronicle.com)
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