Breathing room: China’s 1421 ‘traceable’ wine at Great Hall of The People

We managed to fit 12 people in that room.

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By Jim Boyce

When Randy Lee Svendsen recently asked me to join a group of 12 at the Great Hall of The People to talk about the wine brand 1421, I figured I would be at one of dozens of tables. I wasn’t. There was only that one table in that huge hall — “great” is not a misnomer to describe the room size.

The brand 1421 was created by Hong Kong’s Johnny Chan, involved in the wine scene here for over a decade, and Chile’s Andronica Luksic. It bills itself as the first “traceable” wine in that you can use a smart phone to scan a bar code on the bottles and see where the grapes originated in Xinjiang (see starfarmcc.com/ for more). The company recently started to distribute two of its products, Admiral’s Reserve Chardonnay and Admiral’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, in Metro stores in China and has its “silver” level wine in numerous hotels and restaurants.

The brand is tied to claims that Chinese Admiral Zheng He set sail in 1421 and discovered most of the globe — a map in the promo kit has the fleet finding South America and North America,  a route around Greenland, a route over the Eurasian land mass, Australia, numerous South Pacific Islands, Atlantis, Narnia and Waldo. Kidding and controversy aside, let us focus on the wines at the dinner, which was hosted by Svendsen and Tony Chan.

Admiral’s Reserve Chardonnay 2010: I smelled green fruit, including peach and nectarine, and some citrus. This is a light and austere wine with a touch of bitterness at the end. It did well in the North by Northwest Challenge, where judges described it as being a “clean” expression of the fruit and found stone, tropical and citrus fruit aromas.

Admiral’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: I could smell some berries, and a touch of cassis and forest, but I found this one to have a slightly odd acidity and weak fruit. If I had to pick one, I would obviously go for the Chardonnay, but if you are going to Metro — and don’t complain about the distance since getting there is far easier than circling the Atlantic in search of landfall — why not buy both, given they retail for rmb105, and do your own taste test?

The entry-level Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon is available for rmb98 per bottle, cash on delivery, with a minimum six-bottle order (contact Sammie at sammie.liu (at) 1421wines.com), as well as in hotels and restaurants. Svendsen’s growing list for Beijing includes The Opposite House, Raffles, Hilton Beijing, Maison Boulud and Crowne Plaza Beijing.

(Photos: RL Svendsen)

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