Vintage tasting: City Weekend surveys Beijing’s wine scene… in 1998

By Jim Boyce

A few weeks ago, I popped into Jenny Lou’s gourmet shop near Chaoyang Park and counted around 100 different sparkling wines. One hundred! Choice in Beijing, in terms of shops, tastings, and restaurant, bar, and hotel wine lists, is incredibly diverse when compared to a few years back.

Case in point: this 1998 City Weekend story about a tasting of four local and four imported wines.

Author Anne Stevenson-Yang noted the difficulty of finding imported wine, particularly at a reasonable price, and posited: “So when you’re thinking of uncorking a red to go with dinner, you may not say it out loud, but a secret voice inside asks, “The Chinese stuff can’t be that bad, can it?

An eight-member panel, including “two experts on wine, two utter ignoramuses, with the rest someplace found in the middle,” provided the answer:

The panel unanimously declared the Chinese wines “disgusting” (62 RMB, Dragon Seal), “like cough syrup” (42 RMB, Great Wall), “a little off” (55 RMB) and “overpriced” (27 RMB, Dynasty). The highest marks went to, sigh, the Wente Chardonnay (210 RMB) and the Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon (218 RMB), both Californian wines. The French Gallerie Cabernet Sauvignon and Gallerie Chardonnay Languedoc got low ratings all around but still ranked above the Chinese wines. Of the Chinese, the humble Great Wall red got the most face, being called “pleasant” but “without any follow-through.”

Here the scores as found in the article, “Bargain-Basement Connoisseur: Sorry, but the cheap wine is really and truly awful.”

  • 8.1 – Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon (California) 1995
  • 7.5 – Wente Chardonnay (California)
  • 6.1 – Gallerie Cabernet Sauvignon (Languedoc) 1995
  • 5.3 Gallerie Chardonnay (Languedoc)
  • 5.0 – Great Wall red
  • 4.3 – Tsingtao Huadong Chardonnay 1995
  • 3.3 – Dynasty
  • 1.1 – Dragon Seal Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

As for the Chinese wines, here are some tasting notes for the wine that ranked highest…

and lowest.

Note: Triple hat-tip to Elvis Lives for digging up this article.

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