Wine consumer power in China: Annual Grape Wall Challenge held in Beijing

By Jim Boyce

They came, they sniffed, they sipped and they scored. The fourth annual Grape Wall Challenge — which features Chinese consumers judging wines that retail for less than rmb100 — was held yesterday in Beijing at restaurant F by Tribute. Here are a few notes about the event, with the official results to come as soon as I finalize them with fellow blog contributors, on Monday at the very latest.

    • The red wines seemed more consistent and interesting than in previous years. During the post-tasting discussion, the judges cited a Merlot from Chile and a Pinotage from South Africa as being among their favorites. We will soon see if either took top spot.
    • We had 40 wines  this year — 20 red and 20 white — which meant that each panel of consumer judges tried five flights of four wines. As in other years, we asked several journalists to join the event and try the wines, although we won’t count their scores.
    • For the first time, we had wine from China, with Torres submitting Grace Vineyard from Shanxi province and Pernod Ricard submitting Helan Mountain from the Ningxia region.
    • We were happy to have a solid lineup of top importers with distribution throughout China. This was our most comprehensive group yet (in alphabetical order): Aussino, ASC, China Wines & Spirits, East Meets West, French Wine Paradox, Links, Mercuris, MQ, Pernod Ricard, Summergate and Torres.
    • While we had a few hiccups, things went fairly well, with fellow Grape Wall contributors Ma Huiqin serving as chair of both panels and Nicolas Carre opening and overseeing pouring of the wine, graduate students Gao Wei and Guo Wenjuan assisting with operations, and me acting as an intermediary.

Again, I’ll have the results soon, but overall it was a good tasting on a rare snowy day in Beijing. For now, a big thank you to the judges, to the distributors, to Frank Sun, Brian Min and the staff at F by Tribute, to the many people who helped out, including Li Demei, Li Hanrong, Wang Xin, Zhang Jian, Hana Qi, Richard Wang, Kelly Hu, Sun Fengyi, Weiley Lu, Nixey, Xu Juan, Emily Yang, Elvis T, Sommelier Liang, Gordon Kutil and Sun Fengyi, and to Miao Wong and Annie Wei for being the only people who have participated in all four challenges. If I’ve missed anyone, let me know and I’ll update this post.

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