Posted on | January 31, 2014 | No Comments
Welcome to wine blog Grape Wall of China. This site covers winery visits, consumer events, trade personalities, industry trends and much more in the world’s largest consumer market. You can also keep up via Twitter, Weibo or the Grape Wall e-newsletter. This blog takes a good deal of time and money. Please consider supporting it by becoming a subscriber – Click here for the details. To contact Grape Wall, email grapewallofchina (at) gmail.com.
Posted on | March 10, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
Winemaker Antonio Flores of Spanish operation Gonzalez Byass visited Beijing last week and led several Sherry tastings, including one I joined at newly opened bar Parlor. Flores outlined the “pillars” of his craft, including soil, grapes, alcohol levels, aging styles and blending techniques, and explained the importance of “flor“, a combination of yeast and other material that forms like “cheese curds” on the surface of some sherries and serves both to impart flavor and serve as a seal against air.
Anyway, we started the tasting with five dry sherries, including Tio Pepe, aged at least four years, and the limited edition “Palmas“ range. The latter four wines are aged six, eight, ten and forty-plus years respectively and essentially reveal Tio Pepe as it grows up. As Flores said, while we tried the last one, “This used to be a Tio Pepe so the memory of that is in the background.” I hid at the table’s far end and took the following notes as I tried — I was nearing the end of a chest cold — not to cough on anyone.
With Tio Pepe, I smelled greenness (unripe Bartlett pear skin) and mild nutty liqueur, and found it fresh and dry, with some nutty flavors and a slightly bitter citrus-y finish. The darker Una Palma Fino (6 years) had sweeter and nuttier liqueur aromas, a fuller body and that same touch of bitterness — someone said it was almond — at the finish, while Dos Palmas Fino (8 years) smelled less intense if even sweeter and nuttier (“brioche”, said Flores) but compensated for it with a bigger body that included some savoriness and, at the finish, spiciness.
The Tres Palmas Fino (10 years) further showed the maturing Tio Pepe, with a lighter nuttiness (less almond, more chestnut, said someone) and greenness. It is lean and complex, with — I assume from barrel age — more vanilla flavor. Finally, Tres Palmas Amontillado (40-plus years) — unlike the others, it spent most of its life without flor, some thirty-plus years — is Tio grown up. This smells like sweet hazelnut, brioche, dried fruit and resin (Flores said “varnish”). I found it intense and well-structured, with a salty finish that reminded me of a hoppy beer.
Flores said these are called “handkerchief wines” because you add a couple of drops of sherry to one and carry the smell wherever you go. “It’s perfume.”
We finished with two more bottles. One was the Alfonso Dry Oloroso that had bread, orange, syrup and dry wood aromas and lots of nutty flavors, and seemed to be particularly popular among the tasters. The other was Nectar Pedro Ximenez, the only wine we tasted not made from Palomino fino grapes. If you like Fig Newtons, this is for you. It had fig, hazelnut, maple syrup, fig, coffee, chocolate and fig smells, and I found it sweet and viscous but not overly cloying. I can see why a friend recommends it dribbled over vanilla ice cream. (With a few Fig Newtons on the side.)
You can get these sherries from Tinta Fina. For those living in Beijing, I’m told Tres Palmas and Cuatro Palmas are already sold out and there are less than 20 bottles each of Una Palma and Dos Palmas. If you’re a fan and keen to get some, you best act quickly by visiting The Loop. Also, the Tio Pepe site has tasting notes on the Palmas range here and the other sherries here.
Posted on | March 10, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
As I recently perused a menu in Beijing and agonized between ordering the enticing 2014 Tsingtao draft beer or the eloquently if tersely described NV house red (that description consisted of “house” and “red”), acquaintances in Hong Kong faced slightly better options. Even, one might argue, *much* better options.
The occasion was the first Hong Kong visit of Elaine and Manfred Krankl, owners and winemakers at California winery Sine Qua Non, distributed by Links Concept. To mark the occasion, Links owner Patricio de la Fuente-Saez organized a dinner for a dozen people and opened an impressive array of wines from the likes of Roederer, Heritage and Giscours, Heitz, and Dominus and Screaming Eagle, and Vega Sicilia, Penfolds and Yquem, and, of course, Sine Qua Non. A list of the main bottles is below.
Sine Qua Non’s “The Five Shooter” Syrah and Grenache is already listed in the Links portfolio and “The Dark Blossom” is expected to be added this week. For details or to order, send an email to patricio (at) linksconcept.com.
Posted on | March 4, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
Sotheby’s has a pair of wine auctions lined up for early April that will help replenish the dwindling drinking stocks of wealthy buyers in the region. And if the upper estimates for both are reached, the take will top HKD100 million / CNY80 million.
The first is called “A Magnificent Bordeaux Cellar II“, slated for April 4, and includes 381 lots estimated at up to HDK26 million. Says a Sotheby’s press release (my highlights):
Finest Bordeaux – all First Growths plus their equivalents, Cheval Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion – from the top vintages, such as 1982, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2000, are available in multiple formats. Many of these are offered in parcel quantities including 11 cases of Château Mouton Rothschild 1986, 12 cases of Château Margaux 1996 and 15 cases of Château Cheval Blanc 2000. For Sauternes lovers, the impressive selection of Yquem in parcel quantities from the great vintages over the past 20 years, including 10 cases of 2001, is definitely not to be missed.
Fitting into the Year of the Horse theme, there are 88 Lots of Cheval Blanc from 1966 to 2004.
The second is called “Finest & Rarest Wines Featuring the Collection of Ambassador Ronald Weiser“, slated for both April 4 and 5, and includes a whopping 1219 lots estimated at up to HDK75 million.
The press release says the wines come from “a superb collection from the home cellar of Ambassador Ronald Weiser… offered by the University of Michigan with all proceeds benefiting the Food Allergy Center. The collection represents over a century of liquid history, from 1899 to 2008, with an emphasis on historic, mature wines of remarkable complexity and depth.”
Along with plenty of lots of First Growth wines as well as Right Bank powerhouses like Le Pin and Petrus, the release notes “magnums of La Mission Haut-Brion 1945, Cheval Blanc 1929 and Lafite 1959. A 57-bottle vertical of Mouton Rothschild from 1918 to 1996 is another major sale attraction. There is also a magnificent collection of top class burgundies highlighted by 80 lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from 1952 to 2008 and 26 lots of Henri Jayer from 1980 to 1993.”
Posted on | March 2, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
That’s quite a bit of money, ¥15,000 is, translating roughly to USD2500 / EUR2000. But rest assured, say the organizers, not only does that get your wine — made-in-China products only — tasted by experts Jancis Robinson of Britain, Bernhard Burtschy of France and Ian d’Agata of Italy but also a whole lot more. The fee includes participation in other aspects of the Chinese Wine Summit:
- Participation in a tasting open to the general public.
- An invitation to the summit forum.
- A seat at the “grand gala dinner” with the three aforementioned critics as well as importers, distributors and other trade people.
- Special prices on the master classes, which are regularly priced at ¥3000 each, with Robinson presenting “The Evolution of World Wine Styles”, D’Agata “Native Wines Grapes of Italy” and Burtschy “2000-2010: The Golden Decade of Grands Crus Classés en 1855 de Bordeaux”. (Get details / sign up here.)
“And of course, the wines recommended by wine critics will get all the benefits of online, offline and event media exposure during and after the summit, which is very valuable as the whole event is fully supported by TasteSpirit, Shanghai Morning Post and our media partners”, states an event organizer.
Hmm, that’s still a lot of money. Anyway, wines will be evaluated beforehand for faults, with those not passing muster getting 80 percent of the fee back. Those that quality, up to maximum of 60 wines, will be sniffed, sipped and scored by Robinson, Burtschy and d’Agata. By the way, Robinson has had ample experience tasting wine in China — see these write-ups from 2012, 2010 and 2008 as examples.
Posted on | February 26, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
The sequel to the inaugural China Wine List of the Year contest is underway, with March 15 the deadline for entering menus. Qualified menus will then face up to three levels of evaluation as the judges determine not only overall winners but also the worthiest in seven geographical regions.
Last year, Robuchon au Dome in Macau — which sports a 350-page menu covering a 10,000-plus bottle cellar — took top honors. The other finalists were Shanghai’s Fifty 8° Grill in the Mandarin Oriental Pudong and Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen, Hong Kong’s Oyster & Wine Bar in the Sheraton and Gaddi’s in the Peninsula, and Macau’s Aus Beaux Arts in the MGM. There were also awards in more than a dozen other categories, from best wine bar list to best wine-by-the-glass list.
Get the entry details, in English and Chinese, here.
- China Wine List of the Year: Who’s got a 350-page menu and 10,000 bottles?
Posted on | February 22, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
Greek wine events are few and far between in Beijing but our fair city will see one tomorrow as Temple Restaurant Beijing (TRB) hosts a sampling of a white, a rose and a red. Fans of these wines can follow up this sneak peak by having a bottle of each delivered at home for rmb588 total.
Even better, winemaker Mihalis Boutaris of leading Greek producer Boutari will be on hand to answer questions. Boutaris is no stranger to China given his involvement in a pair of wine projects in Gansu and as an importer. Here are the wines with descriptions as provided by TRB:
- Ktima Pavlidis ‘Thema White’: ‘Clean, new world-style, perfection in fruit expression.’
- Kir-Yianni Estate ‘Ramnista’: ‘Stand out for exceptional aromatic intensity and complex structure. The connoisseurs’ favorite label among Kir-Yianni wines.’
- Kir-Yianni Esate ‘Akakies’: ‘An austere, yet sensual wine with rich taste and refreshing acidity as the only Greek AOC Rosé.’
The tasting is 1 PM to 3 PM on Sunday — February 23 — at TRB.
Posted on | February 14, 2014 | No Comments
By Jim Boyce
The world’s most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, is coming to Beijing and Shanghai in a few weeks to head a bunch of really expensive classes and dinners. I’ve posted about this several times, including how people can get free tickets to the events by buying wine from ASC (here) and how his visit is being compared to that of Richard Nixon in 1972 (here). I got a few more reminders this week via “Grand World Tour” ads on wine-searcher.com, a promotion by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, and a special area on the Chinese-language website of American Express, the key backer of the tour.
The events listed for the initial stop, Beijing, include a gala dinner on February 27 at ¥6600 (USD1100) per head and, given sufficient numbers, a Petrus (1995, 1998) and Lafleur (1979, 1986, 1990, 1998, 200o) vertical tasting at ¥60000 (USD10000) per head. I’ve heard the dinner will seat well over 100 people: I’d be surprised if the organizers found that many individuals to pay but imagine that full-table purchases, along with some comps, will help fill things out. If you want more details, get them at tour’s official website here.keep looking »