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Aussie winemaker blending in fiery Chinese liquor

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NOTHING IS sacred at Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. in the pursuit of profit.

The Australian maker of Penfolds is now lacing some of its most famous wine with baijiu, the popular fiery liquor from China that can smell like soy sauce. The result, Penfolds Special Bottlings Lot. 518, goes on sale in September. The added liquor will increase the alcohol level to 21.5%, similar to the strength of port, from about 14%.

Few people outside China ever drink baijiu, which is made from sorghum, rice, wheat, or corn and can contain as much as 53% alcohol. Treasury is betting that the combo of China’s liquor of choice with Shiraz can help recruit more drinkers in Australia’s biggest wine-export market.

“This will broaden our base and help future-proof Penfolds,” Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago said in a statement. Other new Penfolds products aimed toward that goal include brandy and Champagne. — Bloomberg