A lot has been written about international vintners eyeing the Chinese market often with the comment that wine made in China was not very good and tasted like “a very poor quality Bordeaux Rouge”.
However to develop and cultivate a wine-drinking nation, one can not just rely on imported wines. I was therefore very pleased to see a Financial Times article by Jancis Robinson that some there are some promising newcomers emerging in the domestic Chinese market.
Robinson writes: “I was also heartened to come across truly inspiring red wines from two new wineries. Jade Valley, a thoroughly modern spa resort and winery, also in Shanxi, is artfully set in a particularly bucolic valley not far from the site of the famous terracotta warriors by owner Qingyun Ma, one of China’s most influential architects.
I tasted the current release Sauvignon Blanc, which really does taste fresh, fruity and like a Sauvignon Blanc; a barrel sample of their 2009 Cabernet that was apparently made with help from Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci from Napa Valley, its 2006 counterpart that was perfectly respectable, and a 2006 Pinot Noir that was the biggest shock of all. This was delicate, fruity, perfumed and did actually taste of Pinot Noir (quite a feat for a Pinot Noir grown anywhere, let alone in the wilds of China). This is clearly a small, newish Chinese producer that is worthy of anyone’s attention.
“And then Silver Heights, up in the Helan Mountain region of Ningxia province west of Shanxi, is another bright light to have emerged on the modern Chinese wine scene. Silver Heights’ Summit red Bordeaux blend is made by one of China’s few female winemakers Emma Gao. She trained in Bordeaux and it certainly shows.
“The 2007 has the most delightfully natural fragrance and delicacy while the 2008 is clearly more ambitious. The vineyard, at 1,200 m altitude, belongs to her family and the small quantity made is distributed by (Catalan winemaker Miguel Torres), for whom she once worked.”
What is not surprising is the level of foreign investment in the Chinese wine industry.
“Pernod Ricard have also invested in Helan Mountain. After an early involvement in the Dragon’s Seal brand, the French multinational has now set up in a joint venture with locals in Ningxia province and an Australo- Chinese team is already making a range of solid varietals using Helan Mountain as a brand name,” Robinson writes.
“The eyes of the fine- wine market in China are on the joint venture announced last year between the owners of Château Lafite (whose French wines’ commercial success in China has been truly astounding) and the Chinese giant CITIC group. To the surprise of many, they have chosen to invest in Penglai in humid Shandong, as has another Bordeaux– Chinese joint venture.”
“Doubtless many more foreign bees are currently buzzing round the honeypot that is the potential for Chinese wine.”