Specialist NZ wine restaurant opens in China

Published: Sat 1 Sep 2007 02:38 PM
Specialist NZ wine restaurant opens in China
New Zealand wines have found a stylish home in China, with the recent opening of the first restaurant and bar dedicated to showcasing premium New Zealand wines.
“Back Street 19 Matakana Estate” restaurant and bar in Guangzhou City is the result of a business relationship between Matakana Estate and Goldridge Estate Wines and a leading Chinese business magnate, Mr Yifei Li. Guangzhou City, 193 kilometres northwest of Hong Kong, is the third largest metropolitan area in China with a population of 8.5 million and is one of its leading commercial and manufacturing regions.
Located in the city’s most exclusive residential area of Ersha Island, the elegantly-designed Back Street 19 Matakana Estate restaurant and bar focuses on showcasing the Goldridge Estate and Matakana Estate ranges. The only other wines available are vintage French wines with a starting price of NZ$1,000. A specially built, thermostat-controlled cellar ensures that the wines are kept at their very best.
Matakana and Goldridge Estates Managing Director Peter Vegar says that Back Street 19 Matakana Estate has already become regarded as one of Guangzhou City’s most prestigious restaurants and bars.
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“The city’s financial elite, like many other affluent Chinese, are rapidly developing a sophisticated appreciation of premium Western wines and cuisines,” he says.
Matakana Estate is a family-run boutique vineyard producing high quality wines with an elegant and complex style that reflect the natural characteristics of their grape varieties and terroirs. Sold primarily through high end restaurants and specialist wine sellers, the current Matakana Estate Wines range features Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough Pinot Noir, Matakana Pinot Gris, Matakana Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet blend and Matakana Syrah. Matakana Estate Pinot Gris was recently listed as one of the top 250 wines of the year by leading UK wine writer Matthew Jukes.
Matakana’s sister company Goldridge Estate focuses on creating bold and vibrant wine styles for the retail and supermarket channels. The current Goldridge Estate range includes Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot and Syrah.
Mr Vegar says the Back Street 19 Matakana Estate venture is a classic example of the Chinese way of doing business known as guanxi (personal connections and relationships). Mr Vegar initially met Mr Li through a mutual friend and business acquaintance in New Zealand and the association was enhanced by Mr Li having fallen in love with New Zealand wine and food. “Mr Li has a special liking for Matakana Estate and Goldridge Estate wines,” says Mr Vegar.
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After a number of meetings in which, according to guanxi, the two owners became better acquainted, the first export shipments of wine took place to Mr Li’s Guanghzou Huayi wine importing company in January. The subsequent opening of the restaurant, says Mr Vegar, reflects Mr Li’s considerable interest in art and culture.
“As the owner of one of the largest auction houses in China, art is a large segment of Mr Li’s business. He is keen to expand that part of his business and sees the restaurant and bar as a natural fit with it.”
Mr Vegar adds that the success of the Back Street 19 restaurant and bar venture is an encouraging reminder of how well guanxi works as the basis of doing business in China. Substantial resources have been committed to the venture, including a full-time sales force of six people in Guangzhou, and Mr Li plans to open similar sites in Shanghai and Beijing later this year.
“With the backing of such a substantial partner, the time is right for New Zealand wines in China,” Mr Vegar says.

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