The third annual Grape Wall Challenge, held on Tuesday in Beijing, saw Chinese consumers sniff, sip and score nearly 40 wines — split between red and white — that retail for less than rmb100 per bottle. This year’s Grape Wall Challenge was at Modo restaurant in Sanlitun Village (3F), which provided staff support and lunch for everyone. Hilton Beijing gave each judge a ticket to this Saturday’s Vinopolitan, which will have over 1000 different wines.
The purpose of the Grape Wall Challenge is to judge wines under rmb100, since these are what most people can afford, and to build consumer confidence, since many consider wine to be an intimidating topic. About a dozen journalists also tried their hands at judging. I’ll post a contest wrap-up later, including how to improve it. For now, I have listed the winners from the red wine session below and am working on the white wine session post.
Scoring: Judges tasted each wine and put it in one of four categories: “love it”, “like it”, “don’t like it” or “hate it”. We awarded four points for “love it”, three points for “like it”, and so on. Judges also had space to leave comments and to list their “top three” wines. (Thanks to Iain Shaw, Miao Wong and Steve Han for help with scoring.)
Judges: The consumers ranged from a DJ company GM to a bar manager to an IT specialist to several people in sales and marketing. The media included Beijing Today, The Robb Report, Global Times, The Beijinger and Tatler.
Headache: The retail price submitted by the distributor of the highest scoring wine turned out to be a promotional price. The regular price is over rmb100. I have disqualified that wine. Thus, if judges wonder why Wine Number Six is not listed below, that is the reason. I’m sorry about this and in future will have to return to checking every single entry.
Now, for the consumer picks (I have included some comments from all judges)…
Claude Chonion Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (France)
“love the smell”, “fruity”, “smells like grass”
Nederburg Winemaker’s Reserve Pinotage 2009 (South Africa)
(ASC Fine Wines, ~rmb90)
“fruity smell, mild taste”, “deceptively sweet but will stab you in the face — that’s good”
Santa Carolina Premio 2010 (Chile)
“very mild but OK”, “nice texture, smooth-bodied”
Argento Malbec 2010 (Argentina)
De Bortoli Family Selection Shiraz-Cabernet (Australia)
(Torres China, rmb73)
“elegant”, “weird, in a good way”
Scoring well with the media judges were the Salentein Malbec 2010 from Argentina (Torres China, rmb83), Warrane Sticky Beak Shiraz 2008 from Australia (China Wine and Spirits, rmb87), Long Country Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from Chile (East Meets West, rmb57) and that Nederburg Pinotage. I didn’t have a chance to try all of the wines but, of those I did, I liked the Salentein, the Nederburg, and the Roux Pere et Fils Cotes du Rhone (East Meets West, rmb99), and thought that Long Country Cabernet Sauvignon, for those who like some funk, to be good value at rmb57.
I will soon post the white wine winners, a list of retail outlets at which to buy the wines, and a wrap-up of this year’s event.