Basketball star brings American wine to China
Retired basketball superstar Yao Ming is to auction off the first bottle from his new Napa Valley wine company at a charity event in Shanghai on Sunday, with a starting price of 60,000 yuan (HK$73,500).
The 1.5-litre bottle of 2009 Yao Family Wines, which bears the gangling sportsman's own name, is to go under the hammer at the Special Olympics East Asia's annual fundraising gala.
Auction proceeds are to go to the Special Olympics, for which Yao is a global ambassador, and the Shanghai Special Care Foundation, a charity for special-needs children with which he has a close relationship.
Yao's wine is a cabernet sauvignon produced, according to the company's website, from grapes selected from six vineyards in the famous Californian wine valley.
A press release posted on the website - which appears to be incomplete - and dated for next Monday, stated that the wine would be 'available in China immediately'.
'Yao Family Wines crafts world-class wines from the Napa Valley and we look forward to introducing wine lovers in China and the world to this remarkable wine-growing region,' Yao said in the statement.
'Basketball gave me the opportunity to live in the United States and discover many wonderful things in America. Now I look forward to bringing great wines from California back to the Chinese people.'
Although Yao's company does not run its own vineyard, the website states the wine is fermented and matured in its own winery.
It is unclear from the website whether Yao - who formally retired from basketball in July following long-running injury problems - had been involved with the organisation from the outset or bought the company recently.
Records from online databases show 'Yao Family Wines' was filed with US trademark authorities on August 24 this year.
There has been speculation about Yao's future plans following his departure from the court. At the time he said he simply wanted to focus on his ownership of the Shanghai Sharks, the team he debuted for at the age of 16, and to promote youth sports.
The 2.3-metre giant was back in the media spotlight this month when he started classes at Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Antai College of Economics and Management.
The 60-kilometre-long Napa Valley is one of the most highly regarded American wine-growing centres, and is home to more than 450 wineries.
The number of bottles of wine consumed on the mainland and in Hong Kong in 2009, a 104 per cent increase on 2005