I picked upÂ Hugh Johnson‘s Pocket Wine Book 2008 over the weekend. Just in case anyone is interested, the section on China covers one-fifth of a page out of more than 300 pages [my comments are in square brackets]:
With nearly 5% of world production, China is the sixth-largest producer and continues to increase by 15% annually. Twenty-six provinces produce wine from over 400 wineries, especially Shandong, Hebei, Tianjin, Jilin, Xinjiang, Beijing, Henan, Gansu, Nin[g]xia, and Yunan.Â [China doesn’t have this many provinces. It’s safe to say, though,Â that wine is a great many parts of China.] Four companies dominate – Dynasty, Changyu, Weilong [Dragon Seal], and Great Wall.
Johnson notes that there areÂ “quality producers benefitting from foreign investsment”, and cites:
- Huadong in Shandong (good Chardonnay and Riesling)
- Grace in Shanxi (good Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blend, Rose and Chardonnay)
He notesÂ that these are joined by “improving” wineries, such as:
- Lou Lan [in Xinjiang]Â (good Chenin Blanc and Merlot)
- Suntime Manas in Xinjiang [noÂ varietal noted]
- Dragon Seal [in Hebei] (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot)
- Bodega Langes in Hebei [no varietal noted]*
Finally, he writes that others to watch out for are Tsingtao and Kai Xuan Winery in Shandong [to the best of my knowledge, Kai Xuan isÂ owned by Tsingtao, which is more famously knownÂ for its beer] and Maotai [a major spirits maker] in Hebei.
* I bought a bottle of Bodega Langes Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 for a blind tasting at myÂ place earlier this year and this is what our group came up with:
Nose described as “bog rot,” “musty,” “tar,” “burnt Starbuck’s coffee” (the label called it “casky”); oak flavors overwhelmed the wine’s fruitiness (wood from the China-North Korea border is used). “This is a real stinker, with aggressive, spiky tannins”…
It was the worst-value wine I’veÂ had – 588 kuai [~USD85] forÂ something that tasted as though it had been filtered through a musty cedar chest (twice). Having said that, this is based on one bottle, so to be fair I suppose I should empty the billfold and buy another one…
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