White Day is coming soon and besides Japan, other countries in Asia have been adopting the tradition.
Best way to celebrate? A bottle of wine.
SEE ALSO : Cloudy Bay introduces 2019 Sauvignon Blanc
Yang Shen, born in the province of Sichuan, moved to Franceto study in Montpellier and Bordeaux, receiving a diploma in French oenology and wine marketing.
After 5 years of sales and marketing experience with a Bordeaux wine négociant and MHD China, his background of winemaking and commercial studies meant that he was ideally suited to become Founder and Managing Director of Chandon China, a position he held from 2011 to 2016.
In late 2016, Yang joined the Cloudy Bay team as Estate Director. He is passionate about wine and his role is to ensure that Cloudy Bay (LVMH Group) remains a beacon of quality for Marlborough wine, and that the Cloudy Bay story is told with passion worldwide.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Mr. Yang Shen, Estate Director of Cloudy Bay to know more about this brand.
RiA: What is the story behind the brand?
Yang Shen: Cloudy Bay was founded by David Hohnen in 1985.
Already a very successful winemaker in Australia, he happened to taste some New Zealand Sauvignon that some travelling winemakers visiting him had brought and immediately saw potential in the style and the region.
He recruited a winemaker in New Zealand – Kevin Judd – and purchased fruit to make his first vintage in 1985.
In 1986, they started working on the winery and planting the first Cloudy Bay vineyards. The rest, as they say, is history!
David Hohnen put quality at the heart of the brand, believing wholeheartedly that great wine is made in the vineyard – and we remain true to this grounding philosophy in all we do at Cloudy Bay today.
RiA: Who is your customer profile?
Yang Shen: Cloudy Bay does not have a set customer profile; our wines are made to appeal to everyone and anyone. The Cloudy Bay experience is about quality, enjoyment, relaxation, adventure and surprise – and from the experienced wine expert to someone taking their first foray into wine drinking, our wines should be both captivating and memorable.
RiA: How do you envision the coming years of Cloudy Bay considering the growth of wine industry in Asia?
Yang Shen: Asia is extremely important in the future of Cloudy Bay. Obviously every Asian market is unique, with different opportunities and different challenges, but it is great to explore such a dynamic region and to share our wines in new environments, venues and settings.
RiA: Given your background, how does it contribute to the brand’s growth in the region and what is your personal vision?
Yang Shen: My personal experience and knowledge allows us to better understand the requirements and challenges of the Asian markets. Different markets need new communications tools, alternative ways of describing wines, unique food-pairings, and tailored styles of social media post. With this knowledge, we can tailor Cloudy Bay’s events and communications to be relevant to the individual markets, and appeal more successfully to their consumers.
It also helps us to engage better with local teams – for example, the use of WeChat has really helped to link staff at the winery with the teams in our different distribution companies in Asia, creating a greater sense of community and easier communication.
RiA: What are the challenges in building a wine culture in Asia?
Yang Shen: Without a long-standing wine-culture, such as we see for example in Europe, Asian wine drinkers have had to learn a lot quite quickly. There are however, similarities between the ways we talk about wine and the ways we talk about tea, so the shift in knowledge is not an impossible challenge. More interesting is the work we need to do as a wine industry to challenge the way we talk, the way we describe, the way we market ourselves, in such a way that appeals to and engages new consumers in Asia.
RiA: NZ is well known for its white wine, what are the marketing strategies you are applying to work on the brand awareness in Asia?
Yang Shen: It is really important for us at the winery to work closely with and listen to the teams in the individual markets, and to be led by their expert local knowledge. It is also incredibly important for our winemakers and viticulturists to spend time in the markets – it is great for us to understand where and how our wines are being consumed, as well as for trade and consumers to have direct contact with the people behind the wines.
RiA: Focusing on white wine, as an expert, any suggestions and tips to appreciate it more?
Yang Shen: For a wine like the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, we recommend serving it quite cold – ideally between 7-9 degrees. It can be enjoyed on its own, but also pairs brilliantly with fresh shellfish dishes, or white fish.
Te Koko, which is our barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, is a very different wine. It does not need to be served quite as cold, and pairs well with a variety of dishes, from steamed fish, soups and even richer dishes such as pork belly.
The key really is to experiment, and not to be afraid – there is no real “wrong” when it comes to wine – as long as you enjoy it, you’re doing it right.
RiA: What can we expect from Cloudy Bay in the coming years?
Yang Shen: Our main focus is to maintain our position as the most desirable New Zealand wine brand, in terms of quality and brand experience. It is really important to us to not rest on our laurels, and we are always looking for ways in which we can improve. We have a number of projects at the winery currently, creating facilities that will give our winemakers space and time to try some new techniques and to work with some smaller ferments. This will undoubtedly give us some exciting limited edition wines, but primarily be of benefit to our core range.
RiA: As a last question on Chinese market, and the recent news on heritage companies investing in vineyards in China. How do you see this phenomenon and what can you forecast?
Yang Shen: The acknowledgement that China has great potential for viticulture is not necessarily entirely new to companies outside China – companies like Chandon and Ao Yun, owned by LVMH, are testament to that. None-the-less, it is certainly interesting to see the level of interest that has begun to take root, and I am sure that what we are currently seeing is just the beginning.
However, China is a very young market and therefore it is important that companies growing and making wine there are also invest in programmes and strategies to ensure that market demand increases as these new plantings and offerings also increase.