Manchester City FC has become an all-conquering sporting juggernaut in their native England. The City Group also boasts a portfolio of worldwide sister clubs, including New York City, Melbourne City, Mumbai City and Sichuan Jiuniu.
Based in Chengdu and plying their trade in China’s third tier, the latter was seemingly Manchester City’s first attempt to build a following in China. Now, this bond is likely to become even stronger. The football club has announced a partnership with Jiannanchun Group Co., Ltd. (JNC), one of the biggest baijiu manufacturers in China. JNC is now the Official Baijiu Partner of Manchester City Football Club.
Baijiu enthusiasts are well aware that Kweichow Moutai tends to retail for higher prices than many rival baijiu brands. A highly collectable spirit, baijiu has brought a tear to the eye thanks to market value as much as alcohol potency. Now, it seems, the value of Kweichow Moutai has risen internationally.
In mid-June, Sotheby’s of London held a spirit sale featuring a range of whiskeys from Japan and Scotland. Also in the mix was a crate of 1974 Sunflower Kweichow Moutai, the first time the spirit was available for auction in the UK. Experts expected the baijiu lot to be popular, with a predicted value of up to £450,000. Astonishingly, the final price was a cool £1 million – a record sale high outside of China.
Not many people read stuff online, they tend to scan and skip so let’s cut to the chase and keep this article short and to the point without the waffle.
You’re on this page as you are probably interested in baijiu, right?
Westerners that drink baijiu for the first time often experience one, uniform reaction – “seriously? This is the national drink of China?”
Baijiu can certainly be an acquired taste. Once the palate adapts, it becomes clear why this is such a celebrated spirit in its home nation. All the same, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head as to why baijiu is so overwhelmingly popular in China.
In reality, there is not one single reason why baijiu has risen to such a prominent station in China. Rather, there are four core explanations. To understand these will provide insight into Chinese culture and understand the importance of baijiu.
Does baijiu have a shelf life? Can it still be drunk after 100 years?
Theoretically, a high ABV baijiu won’t go bad. Baijiu that hasn’t been opened and stored correctly will last indefinitely. Let’s look at this in-depth below.
Baijiu is more than just a spirit in China. For many, it’s a way of life. Collections of rare and aged baijiu are considered national treasures, often changing hands for substantial sums of money at auction or among private collectors.
This begs a question, though – is aged baijiu simply for decoration, or can this infamous spirit be enjoyed at any age? Is baijiu truly for life, or does the spirit expire after a set period?
Happily, aged baijiu never loses its lustre. This why brands such as V.I.P Jiu 8, constructed from recipes that date back centuries, can retain their quality for many years, even decades. Baijiu can be stored for as long as you wish, provided you take the appropriate precautions.
Eric Tsang, is a 67-year-old Hong Kong actor, film director, producer, and television host who landed himself in the soup with reports of him allegedly selling counterfeit baijiu.
Some time back, the actor who is best known for his comedy roles took part in a sales stream, which was hosted on Douyin, a site similar to TikTok. The sales stream is like a Livestream where hosts and celebrity guests come together to endorse products, which the fans can buy during the session.
The Livestream with Tsang went on for around 4.5 hours and managed to get over 10 million viewers. Even though it was the first such sales stream for Eric he managed to sell 22 different types of alcohol, including beer, wine, baijiu, and many more. He also sold snacks, like, crayfish and duck neck, and total sales exceeded 13.5 million yuan (S$2.68 million).
If a business wants to make a splash in the global market, it needs to gain a stranglehold over the stock exchange. Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd, the distillery behind China’s national spirit, knows that better than most. Having already ousted Diageo from the top of the tree as the world’s most valuable liquor manufacturer in 2017, Kweichow Moutai is now the biggest public company in China.
The popularity of Moutai appears not to have been impacted by Coronavirus, with the share sales increasing by 23% in 2020. This means that Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd boasts a share value of some £205 billion. For comparison, the biggest bank in the nation – the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China – boasts a share value of ‘only’ £200 billion.
Coronavirus has had a significant impact on countless industries, but hospitality has arguably been hit hardest. Social distancing regulations have led to worldwide shutdowns of bars and hotels, which has naturally had a knock-on effect on the alcohol trade. Baijiu sales overseas were already struggling, and now it appears that India may stop consuming the spirit due to political differences with China.
India does not have a liquor to call their own. While baijiu is as synonymous with China as vodka is with Russia, the Indian market settles for replicating traditional European recipes. These spirits are referred to as Indian-made foreign liquor, aka IMFL. The distributor VBev India, however, brought Jiangxiaobai baijiu into the nation some seven months ago.
Whiskey is by far the most popular spirit in India, accounting for around 75% of liquor sales. Indian nationals were starting to develop a taste for baijiu, however. That’s according to Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO of VBev India, who described the Chinese spirit as having a tropical taste comparable to pineapple.
It’s no secret that baijiu is big business in China. A successful distillery of this spirit can turn an enormous profit, and if floated on the stock exchange, the prospects are even better. This has not escaped the attention of Dr. Wang Junlin, a master investor that has reversed the fortunes of countless baijiu brands in the Sichuan province.
Dr. Junlin is the majority shareholder of the Sichuan Langjiu Group Co. Ltd, manufacturers of the Langjiu baijiu. Dr. Junlin has a hand in 76.7% of Langjiu’s shares, whether directly or otherwise. Despite parting with some 70 million shares, he remains in possession of 68% of the company.
As a result of the sale of these shares, however, Langjiu is set to be listed on the stock exchange. Other baijiu brands already hold this distinction, including Wuliangye, Shede Wine, Luzhou Laojiao and Shui Jing Fang. The presence of Dr. Junlin in this deal is interesting though, as he is believed to be the wealthiest man in the liquor industry. Dr. Junlin’s personal net worth is believed to top £1.5 billion.
Dr. Junlin enjoys a stellar reputation in the realm of Sichuan wine. Born in Renshou in 1967, Dr. Junlin studied at the Southwestern Medical University (then known as Luzhou Medical College) to earn his medical degree. In the early 1990s, Dr. Junlin also held the position of director of Chengdu Enwei Group Research Institute.
In 1992, Dr. Junlin took on a new career path. He began work at the Pharmaceutical Factory, an enterprise owned by the Luzhou state, as a Director. The factory was struggling financially at the time, with an annual income of just £220,000. Dr. Junlin oversaw privatisation that ensured this income rose to a staggering £50 million.
Baijiu is a source of cultural fascination in China, and distilleries are hoping to replicate this overseas. Cheng International, one of the biggest distributors and importers of baijiu, are taking this ball and running with it. As of July 2020, a four-part online masterclass aimed at the British alcohol trade will unfold over Zoom.
The course will be led by Qiqi Chen, the Managing Director of Cheng International, and the aim is simple. Chen is looking to educate western audiences about baijiu. This includes the baijiu production process, the history of baijiu, and its importance to Chinese culture – both contemporary and ancient.
Naturally, there is also a sales element at play. The masterclass is designed to show that baijiu can be a big seller within the European spirit trade. Lessons on concocting the perfect baijiu cocktail will also be provided, as will insights into pairing baijiu with the perfect meal. Samples will also be provided at a cost, of which £5 of every sale will be donated to The Drinks Trust.
If you are a part of the alcohol industry in the UK and would like to attend this masterclass, the first session is free for the initial 100 sign-ups. Point your browser to www.bomci.chengintl.co.uk to reserve your place. If you’re unavailable, don’t worry too much. You’ll find everything you could ever wish to know right here on www.baijiublog.com too.