Winery visit: Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard

– By Jim Boyce

Regular readers of my newsletter*, this blog or sibling blog no doubt have heard of Grace Vineyard. I find Grace generally makes the best Chinese wines and often write about this, even in the face of eye-rolling by friends. Grace wine is popping up in hotels, restaurants and bars and has garnered praise from wine experts.

Logic would seem to dictate that if Grace is making such wine, there is a good chance someone else in China is doing it, too.

I have had drinkable wine from other makers – Dragon Seal, Taillan and Catai, to name three – but these tend to lack Grace’s consistency across a diverse portfolio.

Last Thursday, I went to a winery that might be up to the challenge.

The 20-hectare Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard is a 90-minute drive from downtown Beijing. I visited it with Lawrence Osborne, a New York-based wine writer and author of The Accidental Connoisseur, who has the benefit of an expense account that covers hiring cars for winery visits.

Winemaker Li Demei gave us a quick and chilly tour of the vineyard and then took us inside for a tasting, with local wine writer and consultant Winnie Wang also present. The lineup:

Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 2006, 2007
Chardonnay 2005, 2006, 2007
Marselan 2005, 2006, 2007
Merlot 2007
Cabernet Franc 2006, 2007
Petit Manseng

In general, the 2005 wines bested those from 2006, a year marked by heavy rainfall, while the 2007 obviously is still too young, though the Cabernet Franc showed nice plum and jam flavors.

The Viognier-Riesling, split 75 percent and 25 percent between those two respective grapes, was pale yellow in color. Smooth and subtle, it had light pear and floral scents on the nose.

“This is better than the Heartland [Viognier-Pinot Gris] we had last night,” said Osborne.

The late harvest Petit Manseng was among the more intriguing wines I have tasted in China. The nose is mushroom-y, but the body has honey and a bit of savoriness.

I’ll have more on these wines, especially on the Chardonnay and Petit Manseng, which I have since tried with numerous people in Beijing.

* The e-newsletter covers Beijing’s nightlife scene, including wine tastings. To get it, email with “sign me up” in the subject line.

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  1. Hi Y A,

    The vineyard is in Huailai district in Hebei, just north of Beijing. A nice drive it is, too, as you follow the Great Wall for some time.

    Cheers, Jim

  2. In what city or district is this vineyard located? Look forward to your discourse on how well does Petit Manseng grape do in China.

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