Unfiltered with Castle Li of COFCO

Castle Li is the man who sits atop China’s biggest wine importer, COFCO Wine & Wine – the wine and spirits importing arm of China’s biggest foodstuff conglomerate COFCO – as well as the state-owned company’s flagship Chinese winery, Great Wall, and is perhaps one of the most watched personalities in China’s wine industry – and for good reasons.

With mainland China’s expanding imported wine market, COFCO Wine & Wine in a short span of just four years since its founding in 2014 has grown to be the biggest wine importer by volume in the country. In 2017, the company imported over 10 million bottles of wine, compared with 7.5 million in 2016, Li revealed to dbHK in an interview late last year, a number that saw it surpass its main competitor ASC Fine Wines.  

The same year, Li was named as the general manager of China’s leading Great Wall winery, also owned by COFCO, bolstered by his strong performance with COFCO Wine & Wine. Since the new appointment, Li has been vocal about his ambition, determined to turn Great Wall into a, “world-class wine that could represent China”, a strong sentiment that he brought up a few times in our full interview below.

There are signs that Great Wall is going to embark on a more dynamic, diverse and export-oriented approach in the coming years. For the first time, the state-owned winery is participating in international trade shows including upcoming ProWein in Germany and Vinexpo Hong Kong in May. Li has been advocating a more open-minded approach to competition from imported wines. But how successful will the revamp be? Li and his team will be watching closely.

Speaking to dbHK, the executive mapped out in detail Great Wall’s international growth strategy, the perils of combatting counterfeit wine in China, both imported and domestic wines, and his love for football.

Click through the pages to read the full interview.

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