Former Penfolds winemaker joins China’s COFCO

Adam Clay, a former winemaker with Penfolds, has joined China’s COFCO Wine & Spirits, as technical director to oversee production at its GreatWall winery, a high-profile addition to the Chinese winery as it strives to improve its wine quality, dbHK has learned.

Adam Clay, a former Penfolds winemaker, has joined COFCO as the technical director of GreatWall Winery, one of the leading wineries in mainland China.

Clay joining COFCO is one of the most ambitious moves by the state-owned company to raise its profile among the international wine trade, adding the experience of a seasoned winemaker who worked at Penfolds for 10 years from 2007 to 2017.

COFCO, the foodstuffs conglomerate, is the parent company of COFCO Wine & Wine, the wine importing arm of the group, and the owner of the country’s leading domestic winery GreatWall.

Its imported wine business has been growing each year but domestic wine sales have been sagging. In the company’s half-year report, it revealed that GreatWall suffered an 8% drop in sales in the first half of 2017.

The hire hints at the winery’s determination to stop this slide and elevate its wine quality in the hope of replicating Penfolds’ success within mainland China.

In a statement sent to dbHK, the company wrote that: “Adam is honoured to be GreatWall’s technical director, and will work with the team to improve its wine qualities”, without revealing too many further details.

Prior to Penfolds, Clay honed his skills in wineries in Italy, California and Australia including at DeBortoli Winery, Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Pellegrini Family Vineyards, and Deakin Estate.

This is not however the first time GreatWall has worked with a foreign winemaker. Renowned Bordeaux wine consultant Michel Rolland has been consulting the winery’s top wine label Chateau Sungold since 2011, Castle Li, head of COFCO Wine & Wine and GreatWall, previously told dbHK.

One of the oldest and most popular Chinese wineries, GreatWall, has nine different estates across four provinces in China, namely Ningxia Winery, Chateau Yunmo in Ningxia, Wujiaqu in Xinjiang*, Zhuolu Winery, Chateau Sungod, Shacheng Winery, Huaxia Winery, Chateau Huaxia in Hebei province and Penglai Winery in eastern Shandong province.

Founded in 1978, GreatWall is one of the two most known Chinese wineries on the mainland together with Changyu Pioneers. The winery claims it pioneered production of the first dry white in China in 1979 and the first dry red in 1983.

Note: GreatWall has just changed the name of Chateau Yunmo to Chateau Tianfu, and Wujiaqu to Chateau Tianlu. 

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