Beijing Wine Club: Wake up and smell the Chianti

By Jim Boyce

I’d rather not return to this topic, given my post in December, but I wish the Beijing Wine Club would get its act together. I planned to skip last Saturday’s event, but after running into the club’s co-founder at The Rickshaw a day before and getting an SMS from someone who signed up, I decided to drop into Nearby the Tree.

The event was billed as a “tasting” of wines from “women winemakers” of the world.

To me, such an event should involve education about the wines and the people making them. Instead, what I learned came from asking the servers to produce the bottles from behind the counter so that I might check the labels and from talking to a Summergate rep.

As for the “women winemakers” theme, the angle was more like “women involved in wine.” It didn’t help that the selection was limited by the club patronizing one distributor, in this case Summergate, doubly disappointing given the recent Time Out China Wine Guide mess.

In the end, I arrived, I paid RMB150, I drank five samples, I checked the wine labels, I talked to a few people, and I left. In a city where there seems to be a monthly “100 wines for RMB100” tasting, a good weekly Friday night tasting for ~RMB100, and plenty of spots to meet friends and try wine by the glass for RMB35 and up, this event didn’t exactly ooze – or trickle, for that matter – value.

There is nothing wrong with people gathering to socialize, but here the emphasis is on “club” and “wine” is peripheral. It took me back to the wine events held by the former networking group YPHH [Young Professionals Happy Hour], though even those did more to provide a wine-centric experience.

As a consumer I hope to see more BWC events like the one held at Sequoia Café in November, which included two blind tastings, two quizzes and a barbecue for RMB220. In addition to drawing a good turnout, the event was well organized, informative, and fun.

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  1. You will be surprised by these “desert pearls”, Jim. Similar though more “serious” than, for instance, Xinjiang’s Loulan. And not just one producer.
    By the way, any event early April? I’d be in BJ for a few days.
    Ciao, Marco

  2. @ Marco,

    I don’t believe I have tried any wines from Ningxia, but will try to find some this weekend. So far, I’ve tried wines from Jilin, Hebei, Shandong, Xinjiang, Yunnan and a few other places. Need to add Ningxia to that list – thanks for the idea!

    Cheers, Boyce

  3. Thanks for the comments Sydney,

    I have heard people say bad things about Beijing Wine Club events, and that goes for the recent one about which I wrote. It simply wasn’t good value compared to what else is available in the market — and none of the events I cited as better value had a focus on talking “over the heads” of patrons.

    To be fair, I have heard people say good things about the Beijing Wine Club, and I have enjoyed some events, such as the quiz / blind tasting at Sequoia Cafe. I have also written about those events.

    By the way, I never said it was up to anyone but the founders and organizers to decide on the events, so I don’t know where you get that idea. I’m simply saying that, as a consumer, I didn’t like that event. People are free to decide if they agree with me – obviously you don’t. Fair enough.

    Cheers, Boyce

  4. Mr. Boyce,

    I’ve been going to the Beijing Wine Club events since 2006. They are ALWAYS a good time. One thing I like about them is that they don’t go on and on and on about mundane aspects of a wines attributes. No one talks over your head and they always have good wine.

    In all of the events I have been to I have NEVER heard one person say anything bad about them. I love them and look forward to them and so do a lot of my friends.

    Even though they don’t talk forever about wine, I must say I know ten times as much about wine now as I did before I started going. If all they did was talk about the wines I would never have gone back.

    I think it should be up to the founders and organizers (some of whom are my friends) to decide what and how the events are run, not the whims of a blogger.


  5. I know, Jim. Pls don’t misunderstand me.
    I am just happy in my second Country there is a quite interesting debate and big numbers/trends about “aqua-vite”. And thanks to your contribution.
    My “explosion” is the first one, really, on this matter.
    Anyhow, Chinese wines? No doubts: Ningxia has got the best production.
    Have you tried some of them?
    Ciao, Marco

  6. Marco,

    You haven’t mentioned anything wrong. Actually, you mentioned you have 15 years of China practice. Have you tried any Chinese wines?

    Cheers, Jim

  7. All over my life – almost 44 – I have been surprised by all the keen people keen about grape-wine, particularly by the ones who pretent to be expert and, consequently, by the diffusion of Frech wines.
    What a global conformism on the powerfull marketing machine of the Latin Country close to mine.
    I am a consumer, just an engineer with 15 years of China practise, by the way, but, well, you mention “Chianti” in the title. I am a Tuscan and as any real Tuscan boy I grew-up at caffe’-latte, biscotti, focaccia e…vino.
    For the sake of buon gusto, talk more of the Tuscan wine experience, pls!
    Have I written anything wrong?…
    Marco Andreozzi

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