The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Raising a Glass to (and from) China

Posted on | September 9, 2011 | Written by Crystal Edgar | No Comments

The term “New World” is slowly expanding its empire as we watch countries like India, China, Thailand and Indonesia step into the wine limelight. Although these countries may not have the history for producing quality wines that Europe and other countries have, they’ve great potential as the interest and demand for quality rises in these emerging countries. China, the largest of the countries mentioned, is currently leading the pack.

Thursday, Chinese winemakers beat the French at their own game by winning the coveted award for best Bordeaux varietal at the Decanter World Wine Awards at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. After years of producing millions of bottles of cheap “plonk” for supermarket shelves, a few Chinese producers have started invading the high end market. Winery He Lan Qing Xue’s Jia Bei Lan 2009 Cabernet blend was the wine of the night setting the record as the first Chinese wine to win such an international prize.

Jia Bei Lan, from the desert hills of Ningxia (Inner Mongolia) was tasted against other regional trophy winners from France, California, Australia, South Africa and South America and came out on top. Another winner was Domaine Helan Mountain from the western province of Xinjiang,  who took home a silver and bronze medal for its Classic Chardonnay and its Premium Collection Riesling, respectively. Most of the wines found in China are not made from local grape varietals but from French and German grapes owing to their global popularity. Having been fortunate to taste some of these wines, I can attest that there is tremendous talent and great potential in China, and I am so pleased to see these producers recognized at such a large scale.

Understanding China’s position in the wine market and their lack of wine laws makes these international achievements even more impressive.  Without boundaries and regulations, winemakers are left on their own to either look to European traditions or go with their own instincts and standard farming practices. For these few pioneers who have chosen the road of tradition and excellence are truly making a difference in the way the world views China and its wine.

There are many Chinese wines on the local market, and one must be choosy about which bottle to take for dinner. Aside from the wineries mentioned above, here are a few other gems  – Grace Vineyard’s Moscato Symphony, the Bordeaux blends Chairman’s Reserve and Deep Blue from Shanxi province and Silver Height’s Cabernet blend “the Summit” from Ningxia (Inner Mongolia).

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