This is Yao we do it!

Did you catch this story the other day?

Former Houston Rockets All-Star center (and international sensation from China), Yao Ming, has started his own winery… Yao Family Wines.

Now… a retired sports star starting a winery is nothing new.  Just ask Mike Ditka and Wayne Gretzky.

There are a few things, however, that make this story interesting…

First off, is the price of the wine.  The Yao Ming 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (his only, and first wine to be produced) is limited to 5,000 cases, and will be sold in China for 1,775 yaun (about $289 per bottle).

Look… there is no doubt that a man of Yao Ming’s means has been drinking only the finest wines for as long as he’s been in the money.  He knows what an amazing wine is supposed to taste like.  His grapes are sourced from some bomb ass vineyards.  But… Even with a decent winemaking team behind him, I just can’t see anyone having the balls to say their wine is THAT good to command a price that is higher than some of the best wines in the world…

But here’s what this story really highlights… The Chinese wine market.

In the last decade or so, wine sales in China have been growing by leaps and bounds.  Folks over there are spending BIG money to have only the best of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the like.

Aside from a few labels, California has not commanded the same respect from the Chinese wine consumer.

Yao Ming, however, is bridging the gap between the Chinese palate and American grape juice.  These big ballers in China are looking to spend their cash on only the most prestigious labels.  Yao Ming is both literally and figuratively the biggest star in all of China.  To slap his name on a wine in China is the equivalent of putting Willie Mays’ autograph on a ten-dollar baseball in the United States.


The most fascinating part of this story is the label being put on the wine.  Yao has partnered with Kodak to make a counterfeit-proof label which will show his family insignia when viewed through a polarized lens.  This partnership is highlighting the dirty little secret in the high-end wine market in China (and the rest of the world)…

Counterfeits are EVERYWHERE!

Now look… You and I will probably never have to worry about counterfeit wine in our lifetimes.  It is not worth it to anyone to make a knock-off version of anything you would find in Trader Joe’s.  But, when it comes to wines commanding 200 to 2,000 dollars a bottle… Wines that you would rarely have the chance to taste… A counterfeiter has EVERYTHING to gain.  Especially when the consumer has no clue as to how these wines SHOULD taste.

I applaud Yao Ming for doing what he can to try to curb the knock-off wine market.  What’s to keep somebody from drinking, refilling, recorking, and reselling his wine… we’ll have to wait and see.  But, his partnership with Kodak is a step in the right direction.

From what I’ve read, Yao Family Wines will be available in the U.S. in 2012.  I’ve got a feeling that he will be making a 15 – 25 dollar supermarket brand (a la Paul Newman), but we’re gonna have to wait until after the apocalypse to know for sure.

Yao Ming releases his wine to the U.S. and the Mayan calendar ends in 2012... Coincidence?

Stay Rad,



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2 Responses to “This is Yao we do it!”

  1. jonnybrandy Says:

    i read about this. very interesting. also, jay miller left wine advocate!

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