Carrefour spring wine fair: Glasses, deals, and labels with animals galore

Note: My computer crashed this week, so posting has been light, but I have about two dozen articles in the queue. Lots of write-ups of talks with wine personalities, visits to wineries, and tastings coming soon.

By Jim Boyce

The Carrefour wine fair, held twice per year, ranks among the best free public tastings in Beijing. True, most of the wine is entry-level and often leans toward brands with cute animals on their labels. On other hand, the event gives consumers a chance sample from among hundreds of wines and thus try before they buy. Last Friday saw a strong turnout, though lighter than at the fall edition, and consumers enjoyed a 20 percent discount on buys. Here are a few notes about the event and some of the 30 or 40 wines I tried.

1. While customers could taste wine for free Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the poster sent by Carrefour to me – and I assume to everyone else – only mentioned Friday. This annoyed more than a few distributors, who saw smaller crowds over the weekend.

2. At the fall fair, the organizers ran out of glasses two hours into the event. This time, we had a steady flow of stemware throughout the night. (I decided to forgo those four-ounce “egg cups” and instead brought four 22-ounce Bordeaux glasses from home that I shared with three other tasters.) The lack of spittoons is still an issue.

3. I discovered on the way to the event that my camera battery was dead. You will thus have to visualize the dozens of red-faced Chinese imbibers, the three French guys enjoying a half-eaten wheel of Brie and three loaves of bread placed on a case of wine in their shopping cart as they sampled the offerings,  and the steady parade of smokers heading to the Carrefour deck for a puff or two (nothing cleans the palate like a Zhongnanhai 0.8).

4. Some distributors would sell more wine if their employees spent less time idly standing in front of or leaning against the tables and thus preventing consumers from seeing the bottles. Just saying….

At the fall event, Chamarre Jurancon ranked as my runaway favorite wine. This year, here are some of the wines that I – or my tasting buddies – enjoyed…

Foot of Africa Pinotage 2006 (Torres): The top choice of the consumer panel in our Grape Wall Challenge, this wine has lively red fruit with a touch of spice and earthiness. A juicy and decently balanced wine for under RMB100.

Foot of Africa Chenin Blanc 2007 (Torres): Fellow taster DJ Chunky described this one as “crisp and clean. This is nice”, while NC said he smelled white blossoms and apricots, but found the body fresh but too light.”

Monastier Pinot Noir 2007 (DT Asia): Fresh and light, with a simple fruity, almost syrupy, nose that has a touch of earthiness. Take it or leave it…

Chamarre Grenache-Syrah Rose 2006 (French Wine Paradox): A light nose, with aromas of apricots and flowers; this one is easy to drink and I imagine it will be “love it or hate it” for most people (that alone makes it worth trying).

Saltram Maker’s Table Shiraz 2005 (ASC): With blueberry, cherry, and floral aromas, this wine has a lighter body than expected, but plenty of berry power for those seeking such a taste.

I also tried the Oyster Bay wines (Wine Culture) and found the Chardonnay interesting among these New Zealanders.  It was light and creamy, with some mild tropical fruit, though be forewarned that I had already sampled about  three dozens bottles at this point.

See also:
By / buy the case: Carrefour 2008 April Wine Fair

Carrefour wine fair picks: Southern exposure

More posts by Jim Boyce

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  1. Of the wines that I tried, about half a dozen were corked, ranging from slightly to obviously, and some of these corked bottles were into the bottom third of being poured. My suspicions were confirmed by the distributors, mostly western, on hand. What I don’t understand is why they don’t check the wines when they open them, before pouring. I guess at a ‘knees up’ like the Carefor Spring Fair, the answer lies somewhere between apathy and negligence.

    I passed at busy table of Bourdeaux, all under cork of course, and shared a glass of red with two passionate Frenchies. I asked if they had tried all of the wines, and whether they could short cut me to the better wines. I also asked whether they had found any of them to be corked. They relied that ‘No, these are high quality wines with good corks. You won’t find any with bad wine here”. I nodded. One day someone will explain to them that the TCA fungi responsible for corked wine, doesn’t discriminate between cheap and expensive corks.

    On a good note, the same particular Petit Chablis that has been corked for the last two Carefor wine fairs, was not this time.

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