– By Jim Boyce
The Beijing Wine Club end of the year anniversary party featured a sampling of six wines and some fellowship. Sadly, it also included a wine awards ceremony that seemed as relevant to the club as a corkscrew is to a screw-cap bottle.
The club’s awards were based on the results of a tasting panel in Shanghai that judged wine from eight distributors in China. The panel was organized for a Time Out wine guide since published. The guide was written by the co-founder of the Beijing Wine Club, lone club member on the Shanghai panel, and the announcer of the awards.
To sum, The Beijing Wine Club awards were chosen in another city and with minimal club member input.
On top of this, a single wine distributor – Summergate – sponsored the Time Out guide. The portfolio director of that distributor sat on a tasting panel of five people that judged wine provided by the company’s competitors.*
Thus, the club endorsed wines picked by a guide on which the club’s co-founder worked and which was sponsored by one wine distributor.
The cityâ€™s wine lovers – old and new, local and expatriate – deserve better. They need clubs run by and for members.
Using the Shanghai panel’s results might have been “easy” as compared to organizing a Beijing panel – at least that’s the rationale I received. But if convenience were the key issue, forgoing awards and simply having an anniversary party would have been even easier.
I talked to a dozen people about this situation and they agreed the awards were inappropriate, though most stated, “What can you do, this is China?”
Pointing out anti-consumer behavior is a start. They say the key to understanding wine is education. I think the same holds true for understanding and improving the city’s wine scene.
This episode leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which is unfortunate, since some of the club’s other events – notably the blind tasting and wine quiz in October – gave a good impression. Let’s hope the club’s leaders get back on track and remember what a club is all about – member involvement. As one reader writes, “Next year, letâ€™s have BWC judge the wines, and give BWC awards.”
* I originally thought only one distributor sat on the panel. The portfolio director at Summergate noted that a second was involved, from Wine World.
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