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Thursday, December 02, 1999, updated at 09:15(GMT+8)
Business Chinese Wine Maker to Share Market With Remy Martin

French cognac producer of "Remy Martin" is finding a new competitor in Wei Minxiao, who heads a local winery in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"Yaoling" wine, made by Wei's Wild Grapes Winery in the Yao Autonomous County of Du'an, is now the most popular alcoholic drink among millions of tourists who come to Guangxi.

Du'an County is one of the poorest places in China. However, Wild Grapes Winery is one of the county's major revenue makers.

The winery sells more than 2,000 tons of wine a year. In 1993 a businessmen from Hong Kong suggested that the wine be sent to an international wine fair held in Hong Kong after he accidentally tasted the wine and liked its aroma.

The factory was too poor to send a representative from the winery to Hong Kong so workers at the winery packed two boxes of wine bottles and sent them to an international fair in Hong Kong. The wine received first prize at the fair.

"Ever since then, wine produced at my factory sells like hot cakes," said Wei. The wine, made from wild grapes, is now available in big hotels in Beijing and Guangzhou. Because of the special raw materials used, production capacity is greatly limited and so demand always exceeds supply.

In 1996, a group of Frenchmen had the chance to taste the wine and were deeply impressed. Believing that the Chinese-made wine was a potential competitor, the group of Frenchmen even bought a return ticket for Wei to visit France. Wei brought along with him six bottles of wine. The French people were eager to find out how Wei made his wine.

Wei tactfully told his French hosts that the technology used in his factory was not vastly different from that used to make French- made cognacs. However, the pollution-free wild grapes grown in the mountains of Du'an County and a special barm made all the difference.

Wei has been working with professors from the Northwest China University on propagating the wild grapes unique to the big mountains of Du'an County. If experiments succeed, the wild grapes will be grown in more areas of Guangxi.

Wei's dream is to build a larger winery and that more people around the world can taste his wine. He hopes that in the next few years his winery will be able to market 5,000 tons of wine annually. (Xinhua)

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