Dead Grapes Society, ‘top grade’ wine club, Is China the new Chile?

– By Jim Boyce

The Daily Telegraph asks, “Is China the new Chile when it comes to wine?” This an interesting query, particularly since some “Chinese” wines include imported bulk juice, with Chile as a key source. Could it end up that Chile is the new Chile?

Anyway, the writer visited Château Changyu with an Austrian winemaker who exports the wine to Europe in a “blend especially for the UK market.” I wonder what makes this blend different from what we get locally? The wines tasted:

We taste the wines produced from the château’s own vineyards – two reds and a white – along with an Icewine and a Noble Dragon red and white, the Moser/Bibendum blends on sale in the UK.

These latter two are a surprisingly enjoyable, easy-drinking pair and a snip at around £6 a bottle. The red is fruity and spicy, the white is off-dry yet crisp and refreshing.

The 2004 Château Changyu Chardonnay is OK, with hints of honey and buttery fruit, but it’s steep at around £35 a bottle and has a curious finish.

The top red, the 2002 Château Changyu Master’s Choice – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – is clearly well made, with tasty blackcurrant and bitter cherry fruit, and an austere finish. But it isn’t worth the £70 they’re asking for.

It’s the second red, the 2002 Château Changyu Premium Wine (also a Cabernet), that hits the bull’s-eye, with buckets of voluptuous cassis fruit and spicy cedar wood.

At £40 a pop, it would struggle against the competition in the UK, but, taken in isolation, it’s impressive. It’s aged in French oak and resolutely Bordeaux in style and I’m itching to show it in a blind tasting.

The Icewine, made from Vidal, is lusciously, uncloyingly sweet and an utter delight. The Canadians, if not the Germans, should be quaking in their boots.

Meanwhile, the Dead Grapes Society included a Chinese wine in a recent tasting. The notes:

Dragon’s Hallow Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 (China) $10

Did you know that China has actually the world’s fifth largest vineyard area and is the seventh largest wine producer??? Even so, I think the Chinese should stick to making rice wine. The chardonnay we had could be likened to a thick-headed fellow, stout and completely insipid and stupid. I gulped it straight down; some others (notably the Chinese people in the room) tossed it out. However, some people professed to liking the unoaked style, so perhaps there’s hope for the Chinese wine makers after all. Oh, in case you were wondering, Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to encourage the planting of vines in China in the mid 19th century.

Finally, according to wines-info, “On January 11 of 2008, the first fashion event integrating fine wines and arts was held in Beijing. All related people and about 100 elites from all social sectors took part in it.” The article goes on:

The purpose of wine-tasting event was to build a China top grade wine-club which had many chambers of world-class chateaus. Their services included ordering limited world-class wines, offering world-class vineyard and cellars and so on.

Sounds pricy.

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