By Jim Boyce
The China edition of French magazine La Revue du Vin de France (RVF) held a blind tasting of 97 Chinese wines in early April in Beijing and will announce the results on May 31 at Vinexpo in Hong Kong. The tasting panel was headed by Olivier Poels, deputy chief editor of RVF, who flew in for the event. I was lucky enough to be part of it with:
- Ma Huiqin
- Nicolas CarrÃ©
- Guo Yang
- Li Meiyu
- Jin Yang
- Zhan Jicheng
- Philip Osenton
RVF contributor Li Demei, who consults for several wineries in China, sat in on the tasting although his scores were not used in determining the winners.
According to its press release, RVF defined “Chinese wines” as “produced with grapes planted in China, and made in China“. It says most wines tasted were provided by producers or distributors, with additional ones bought in retail outlets. Here are a few notes on the contest:
- I wondered if having Poels present might make people apprehensive about giving opinions, especially opinions contrary to his. No such problem. There was plenty of discussion and disagreement and I learned a good deal from listening to the comments.
- My runaway favorite was The Summit, a Bordeaux-style wine from Silver Heights in Ningxia, with vibrant and slightly funky fruit, a fruity, full and even chewy body, and black pepper at the finish. A wine with personality.
- I was happy to see some new (to me) and interesting red wines, including Lei Ren Shou, as well as the consistency displayed by the wines from Bacchus. In terms of value for money, an rmb80 Cabernet Sauvignon from Imperial Horse stood out. As for whites, a Changyu ice wine and a Helan Mountain Chardonnay were among the notable wines. I’ll have more on these later when I get a full list of the wines we tasted.
- On other hand, it was depressing to see so many wines that were low in quality and high in price. Basically, we would blind taste a flight of six wines and then discuss them. Later, Revue du Vin revealed the names and prices of the wines. At least a dozen times, we found a faulty or sub-par wine that was priced at rmb1000+ — and in some cases up to rmb4000.
- Finally, I was shocked by the post-tasting glass-holding prowess of Philip Osenton.
I’ll post the results when they are available and also plan a post with some fly-on-the-wall observations from the tasting.
By the way, RVF is holding a free session called “China: The Biggest Future Vineyard?” at Vinexpo on May 31, from 1:30 PM to 3 PM. The panel will include Poels and Li, who were both involved in the Beijing tasting, as well as Lin Libo, managing editor of RVF China, Judy Leissner of Grace Vineyard, wine maker Michel Rolland, and RVF’s editorial director Denis Saverot.
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