By Jim Boyce | In early May, I went to the first Interwine Beijing trade fair and enjoyed it far more than I expected. And far more than the TopWine events I have attended. The location—the Agricultural Exhibition Center—is not only close to the subway but also in central Beijing, making it easy to go out with friends or clients before or after the event.
In terms of wine, I found more quality than quantity compared to my experiences at TopWine. Much of the exhibition could be covered in an afternoon and I enjoyed both the tastings and in-depth talks I had with booth reps. And I didn’t sense any of the management attitude I have sometimes felt at TopWine.
Registration and security went smoothly, partly due to the light turnout on Saturday, although I heard it was busier on Friday. In fact, low attendance was the key complaint of the vendors and I wonder how much advertising was done for Interwine: I only knew about the fair via the Spanish Embassy and a couple of friends. Anyway, I hope for a repeat of this trade fair at this venue but with more advertising and, in turn, more attendance. Here is a quick summary, along with photos, of some wines tasted.
Spain: The sole class I attended covered six wines from six regions. To be honest, I arrived at 11 AM with a wicked hangover, having gone to bed at 5 AM the night before, and in need of water more than wine. But this tasting eased me back into a civilized frame of mind. I have dedicated a separate post to these wines from Alicante, Bierzo, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Rueda.
Romania: I first met these guys at a fair in Ningxia two years ago and they told me about the ubiquity of vines in Romania. Most suppliers rave about the countries they represent but, in this case it was accurate. Here’s what Jancis Robinson has to say:
“Wine and Romania are virtually synonymous. The country has more land under vine than Australia, South Africa or Chile, according to OIV figures, more than any other eastern European country, considerably more than its eastern neighbour Moldavia and almost three times as much as the third most important wine producer of the old Soviet bloc Bulgaria.”
I tried a wine made with Feteasca Neagra, a grape that probably originated in Moldova but might have come from Romania. You saw Moldova, I say Romania, etc. Worth a try.
These guys also had the scariest wine at the fair. Each wine in the Dracula series is made at a different winery. Word is they taste best after sundown and pair well with fresh blood.
Georgia: I tried a pleasant wine made with the grape Saperavi, one that came to China in the 1950s, I believe, when Russia—or rather the USSR—was a better buddy. Georgian wine has been on a tear of late, with swift import growth in China over the past two years.
Portugal: Along with Spain, this country offers excellent value for money. I tried one easy-to-drink wine—I forgot to get a photo!—that I’m told retails online for a mere rmb39. I ended up tasting through the entire range with a couple of guys from CCTV and it marked the passage from spitting to guzzling. It’s a shame that Portugal, like Spain, doesn’t get more respect here for the quality of its wines.
Argentina: Funcken Hausen gets my vote for best label name. Meanwhile, Roca, a sparkling semi-sweet Chenin Blanc bubbly from Mendoza, had floral and citrus smells and served as a nice refresher. This would be a nice late-afternoon wine, served super chilled, for Beijing’s hot summers.
Slovenia: I had the chance to try quite a few wines from this country a few years back due to persistent former Beijing resident Alan Ujcic, who put together several Slovenia wine tastings at Sequoia Cafe. This was my favorite table at Interwine due to the enthusiasm of the people there and I tried over a dozen wines.
I enjoyed the Zlata Radgonska Penina bubbly, made from Pinor Noir in the Champagne method, and so did many others given the number of second helpings I witnessed. I also thought this semi-sweet Muscat would work well on many wine lists in Beijing.
And I was kind of mesmerized by all the bottle shapes used for Slovenia wines!
I also managed to try labels from France, Italy, the United States and elsewhere. While my hangover kept note-taking to a minimum, it was a rewarding day of tasting wines and talking to trade people, and here’s hoping that Interwine Beijing is held again next year.