Q&A: RVF publisher Lin Libo on this year’s crop of Chinese wines

lin libo publisher la revue du vin de france wine magazine beijing china

By Jim Boyce

The local edition of French magazine La Revue du Vin de France will soon reveal the top bottles from its annual tasting of Chinese wines. I asked publisher Lin Libo a few questions about the entries for 2013 and about Chinese wines in general. I’ll post again when the winners are announced.

How many wines did the judges taste this year? How did the wines compare to last year?

The judges tasted 103 wines from 37 wineries this year. The numbers last year were 97 wines from 33 wineries.

Ningxia dominated the tasting last year and that region seems even stronger now. Are there any bright spots from other wine regions in China?

Ningxia is very strong again due to its terroir, the efforts of the producers, and local government support of the industry. Besides Ningxia, we find this year that a number of interesting wines are from Shandong.

How many faulty wines were there? What were the biggest faults?

There were some problems due to wine-making technology and management (unclean or contaminated wines), storage (wines that did not taste as good as they should have) and cork quality (affecting the speed of evolution).

Some Chinese wine is very expensive, sometimes rmb1000 or more per bottle, and this surprises people outside China. Why do these wines cost so much?

It is said the cost of grape growing in China is more expensive than in many other countries because vines need to be buried in the winter and uncovered in the spring. It makes Chinese wine less competitive in price against its international counterparts.

The Chinese wine market is not a mature one. Many customers are not knowledgeable enough about wine and often link quality with price when making their purchasing decisions.  It seems to them the higher the price, the higher the quality. This reality gives a chance to some producers to overprice their wines as part of a marketing strategy. Overpricing also happens in the case of some imported wines.

Chinese people also have a tradition of sending gifts to their relatives, friends, business partners and so on for some occasions. Wine has become an option as a gift in recent years. In these cases, the package or the label design sometimes becomes another way to overprice the wine.

You have many links to French wine writers, sommeliers and wine makers. How do they react to Chinese wines?

They have paid attention to this emerging wine-producing country and shown an interest in Chinese wines. Some of them are wondering if China will become a new “new world” and I sometimes hear them say they want to visit the wine regions of China. Some of them have already done so.

You have tasted Chinese wines for many years. How do you compare the wines produced now with the wines produced five or ten years ago?

Ten years ago the Chinese wines were mainly from the producers like Changyu, Great Wall or Dynasty. Today we have many more options.

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