Finding Jiabeilan: Award-winning Chinese wine yet to sign with distributor

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Ever since English magazine Decanter validated* Chinese wine Jiabeilan by giving it an “international trophy“– the first for a wine from this country — at its World Wine Awards, I have received a steady stream of text messages, emails and phone calls not only about where to buy a bottle but also about how to get distribution rights. So I called Li Demei, who is chief wine consultant at Helan Qing Xue, which makes this wine, and a contributor to this blog. He said the Ningxia provincial restaurant in Beijing normally has Jiabeilan, though it does not currently have the 2009 vintage that won the award, and that the winery has yet to make a distribution deal.

I’ve tried Jiabeilan several times: the 2006 during a visit to Yinchuan, the 2008 last year in Beijing, and the 2009 a few weeks ago, also in Beijing. They struck me as being better than the majority of Chinese wine I’ve tasted. I don’t find that shocking given other operations have also made decent wine in Ningxia (Silver Heights, distributed by Torres China, and Helan Mountain, distributed by Pernod Ricard) and in neighboring Shanxi (Grace Vineyard, also distributed by Torres). I note this because there has been some controversey over Jiabeilan’s win, and Decanter’s awards in general, notably at this blog (see: A trophy winner from China? Really? )

Anyway, I’m heading to Ningxia this weekend and will try to buy some bottles of Jiabeilan and make them available to readers of this blog.

* Perhaps “validated” is an unfair word. But there are far too many people in the industry here who only consider what happens with the China wine scene to have value vis-a-vis foreign experts, publications and institutions, most notably English ones. There might be justification for this, at times, but it often smacks of what I call “Cabernet colonialism”.