They’re among the biggest importers of Chateau Lafite, the prized bottles of French red wine that were, historically, so prized by the King Louis the XVth and the Cardinal Richelieu, and that today many of China’s wealthy gourmands will pay any price for. In an average year, the French market sends 200,000 bottles of Lafite to China at exorbitant prices as this particular wine has become the status symbol par excellence and is the preferred gift of those in power.
And here in China, these bottles are consumed rapidly, not savoured slowly but rather chugged down as if they were bottles of beer. Which is why, despite the precious contents, the Chinese drinkers of Lafite have adopted the custom of “customizing” their wine with the addition of soda water. This watered-down version of one of the world’s most expensive wines – which, in many cases, is requested more for the cachet of the label than for the real taste – is the favoured drink among Beijing’s most “in” bars and clubs.
And in China there are even those who are willing to pay – handsomely – for an empty bottle. One company, for example, buys them (at 350 euro per empty bottle) and then fills the Lafite bottles with another wine – good, but less expensive – and then re-corks the bottle and sells it at a cheaper price than the original.
And for those interested in being constantly up-to-date regarding wine consumption in China, here’s the blog for you: The Grape Wall of China.