The Battle of Great River Hill: A China wine tasting in rural Beijing

 great river hill shandong chateau nine peaks cabernet sauvignon 2011 blind tasting in beijing china

By Jim Boyce

Impromptu wine tastings. Open a few bottles, pour them for a handful or two of guests, see which one they like best. No worries about gilded invitations, seating arrangements or tasters worrying days ahead as to whether or not they will look smart. Just a simple “do you like it?” approach.

We had one on Saturday at a restaurant on the rural edge of Beijing. After an orchard visit, we went for lunch and I pulled out two bottles from Great River Hill in Shandong — the Chateau Nine Peaks entry-level Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and the Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

The entry-level wine did well at this tasting at The Loop in March while the reserve was among the highest-scoring of 103 Chinese wines in this tasting by magazine La Revue du Vin de France in April.

How did they fare with our dozen tasters, including a party official, orchard managers, fellow Grape Waller Ma Huiqin and some post-grad students in the tree sciences program?

We gave everyone two cups (some people used glass, others used paper ones I brought), poured the wines and tasted as we ate a dozen dishes, the centerpiece being fried meat pancakes. The two wines clearly differed in terms of smell and taste. And the attendees clearly had a favorite: the entry-level bottle. They found it fruitier and smoother, with some finding the reserve too tannic and acidic. That entry-level bottle emptied fast, and the reserve soon followed.

All in all, a fun tasting that — taken in consideration of The Loop and RVF tastings — underscores the obvious but often forgotten point that you can often get different results with the same wines.

Note: Great River Hill is talking to several distributors in China and I hope their wine will soon be widely available. The listed retail prices are ~rmb138 for the entry level and ~rmb208 for the reserve.

beijing blind wine tasting cups

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