By Jim Boyce
While my acquaintances described the recent La Revue du Vin de France ‘Beijing Salon’ as having too few vendors (~20 exhibitors at ~35 tables) and too much heat (notes of pit sweat?), I took a glass half-full approach and figured that a) I had a shot at actually trying all of the wines and b) this event included some interesting producers in China.
Based in the Huailai area in Hebei Province, Chateau Nubes had four wines available at the RVF Salon The 2008 and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Syrah were very oaky although there was some nice fruit beneath that wood, with spiced red licorice coming through on the 2008. I preferred the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which had more emphasis on its admittedly light fruit and a more rounded body. These wines aren’t cheap at rmb780 to rmb980 per bottle. Production is typically 10,000 bottles per wine.
1421 makes wine in Xinjiang and packages it in Shandong, and had six bottles on offer — the ‘Silver‘, ‘Admiral’s Reserve‘ and ‘Gold‘ versions of the company’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I liked the 2010 Admiral’s Reserve Chardonnay best — it had some honeysuckle aromas that I didn’t remember from previous tries — although I found it too acidic at the finish. The ‘Admiral’s Reserve’ series is available at Metro stores for, if memory serves, rmb108. The ‘Silver’ level wines are simple but clean and found in Beijing at the Raffles Hotel, Temple Restaurant, Hotel G and elsewhere.
This Pernod Ricard-invested operation in Ningxia had three options, including a 2008 Riesling, although the winery no longer produces wine with that grape. This one has a light distinct petrol smell and some nuttiness. It is a bit over the hill but clean, light and fun to try.
The Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 had cherry and light spiced oak aromas, moderately juicy fruit and a slight graininess. Meanwhile, the Reserve Merlot 2012 had similarly juicy fruit, but seemed closed. These are among the better wines made in China and each cost rmb220 per bottle.
Another Ningxia winery, Silver Heights, served Family Reserve 2010 and top-of-the-line The Summit 2010. As on a few other occasions, I found myself liking the Family Reserve more. It was, for lack of a better word, brooding, which isn’t surprising given the wines made by Emma Gao have been described as having personality. It had a good fruit to body balance, and I was split between wanting it to savor it and to gulp it down to its spicy finish.
Helan Qing Xue
I have written many times about Helan Qing Xue, which makes the Jia Bei Lan brand, and the company presented three bottles at the RVF Salon. The 2010 reserve had floral smells, a slightly waxy body, and was pleasant, getting praise from one of my acquaintances, while the white wasan interesting mish mash of grape varieties.
All in all, a small but significant blend of producers. And kudos to those operations whose booths were staffed with knowledgeable and friendly people, including 1421, Helan Qing Xue and Nubes. The Pernod Ricard table was hit or miss, depending on if the company’s education manager was there, while the Silver Heights table was simply miss — the two people there poured while sitting down and didn’t know anything about the wines, including the vintages, although that information was listed on the bottles. This likely had nothing to do with Silver Heights, given it is a small operation and none of its employees were on hand, but it doesn’t look good for RVF.
A few more photos from the day: