90 on that | James Suckling giving high scores to Chinese wines

(This post first appeared in this Grape Wall newsletter.)

James Suckling is awarding plenty of 90-points-or-more scores to wines from China. One of the latest is Ao Yun 2016 from LVMH‘s project in Yunnan in southern China. Suckling gave that 96 points, following up 95 points for 2015 and 94 points for 2014. One wine trade observer–there has been chatter about what many see as pretty high scores–noted that at this pace the 2020 will get 100 points. And then what?

Earlier, in February, Suckling wrote that he tasted 140 Chinese wines in 2019 and awarded 77–that’s 55% of them–scores of at least 90 points. The highest was that 2015 Ao Yun at 95 points, followed by Longdai 2017 from the DBR Lafite project in Shandong and Domaine Franco-Chinois Marselan 2014 from Hebei, both at 94 points. Admittedly, Suckling isn’t tasting a lot of lower-end stuff, as he notes, but that’s still quite a haul of high-scoring wines.

Suckling is no stranger to China. Last year, I visited Huadong, the Shandong winery that won international medals and exported wine to Europe in the late 1980s, doing then what some China producers see themselves as pioneering now. (I still need to post my notes from that trip.)

Anyway, Nicolas Billot-Grima, the French winemaker who worked there in in the late 1980s and that I accompanied, said that Suckling visited Huadong during those early years.

(I actually dug up some 1980s mainstream media coverage of Huadong and will post about that soon. Also saw Suckling wrote about Chinese wines again. Will post about that soon, too.)

Given that history, his track record of China wine tours, such as the annual Great Wines of the World and Great Wines of Italy, and that he seems pretty ambitious, maybe we’ll soon see something with local producers? Suckling hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea over the years, including in China, but he ranks among the more visible trade people in this market, although the field gets ever more crowded.

Anyway, no matter how close his scores for China wines get to 100, I have already bested the million-point mark.

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