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China basketball star to sell ‘Yao Ming’ wine

(Shanghai-AFP) – Months after retiring from basketball, Chinese sporting hero Yao Ming is venturing into business by setting up a wine company to meet a growing thirst for the tipple in his home country.

Chinese basketball player and NBA superstar Yao Ming ©AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE LOPEZ

Yao Family Wines will sell vintages using grapes from the famed Napa Valley region of California, reflecting his time playing in the NBA, the China Daily newspaper said Thursday.

The first batch of “Yao Ming” wine, as it will be branded, is a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon which will sell in China for 3,800 yuan ($600) a bottle.

The company has its own winery but will source grapes from six vineyards in the Napa Valley, according to information that was posted on the Yao Family Wines website but has now been removed.

A representative for Yao declined to comment on the venture.

Yao will sell the first bottle at a charity auction organised by the Special Olympics — for which he serves as a global ambassador — on Sunday, the international sporting organisation said in a separate statement.

The asking bid for the “extremely rare” magnum-size bottle will start at 60,000 yuan because only 1,200 bottles were produced, it said.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Special Olympics, which organises athletics for people with intellectual disabilities, in China.

Since formally retiring from the Houston Rockets in July, Yao has gone back to school for a university degree in business management and juggled charity commitments with running a Chinese basketball team.

Yao, 31, is China’s first global sports superstar with a personal brand valued at more than $1 billion.

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