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Australia’s Seppeltsfield opens $75m chateau in China

The Barossa Valley’s Seppeltsfield has opened the doors to its new wine chateau in China, the first to be part-owned by an Australian wine company, as part of a joint venture with the Minquan Jiuding Wine Company Ltd.

Chateau Seppeltsfield Minquan in Henan Province, eastern-central China

The AUS$75 million Chateau Seppeltsfield Minquan, in Henan Province, eastern-central China, took three years to build and officially opened on 13 May. It is the first Chinese chateau to be part-owned by an Australian winemaker, and will serve as both a retail cellar door and tourism facility, promoting the wines of both Seppeltsfield and Minquan.

The Chinese market is of significant importance to Australian winemakers, with the market last year overtaking the UK as the biggest importer of its wines. Imports to Australia have been given a boost since the signing of a free trade agreement with the country, which came into force in 2015, and a growing interest in wine by the Chinese middle class.

Speaking to Australia’s, Seppeltsfield’s sales and marketing manager Chad Elson said the opening of this chateau was the “next step” for the brand in establishing itself in the Chinese market.

“We have recognised China as probably the leading international wine market for the Australian category,” he said. “This was a particular project to have some form of physical presence in the market, so taking our relationship from purely trade to actually having a retail bricks-and-mortar facility on the ground in China.

“The chateau is more or less operating as a cellar door, but the second component is a bit of an operational hub.”

Chateau Seppeltsfield Minquan is located in Minquan County, one hour from Henan’s capital city, Zhengzhou, whose population is 10 million. Minquan is also accessible from Beijing and Shanghai by a recently completed (300 km/hour) high speed rail.

Elson also noted how Australia’s relationship with China had changed, with a project such as this unlikely to have been proposed only a decade ago.

“Ten years ago, the value of Australian wine exports was about $27 million … currently it is over $500 million,” he said. “There were certainly signals that the market was developing, but how rapid it has been in the last three years particularly … it certainly rocketed far quicker than probably what we could have ever imagined.”

Only last month Australian Vintage announced it was strengthening its presence in the Chinese market, selling a 15% stake in its company to Vintage China Fund, a new partnership founded by YesMyWine founder Dixon Yuan.

YesMyWine is China’s biggest online wine retailer, and will gain exclusive distribution rights to AVL’s wine brands, except McGuigan which has an existing partnership with COFCO, including Nepenthe and Tempus Two.

Seppeltsfield is one of Australia’s oldest wineries, founded in 1850 by Joseph Seppelt, and is best-known for its 100-year-old Para Tawny. Set aside in 1878, the first bottles were released in 1978, and every year, with the winery putting aside its finest wines each year to be matured for a century before release.

Chateau Seppeltsfield Minquan will continue to be the home of Minquan Jiuding Wine Company Ltd, whose most prominent wine brand, ‘1958’, will be promoted alongside Seppeltsfield. The property will primarily be used a retail outlet and tourism hub, and will also be used to promote tourism to the Barossa Valley and South Australia.

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