Call it a tribute to consumer power. Every year, we organize a nonprofit event called Grape Wall ChallengeÂ (GWC) andÂ ask Chinese consumers to judge wines that retail for under rmb100.
We held theÂ sixth annual Grape Wall Challenge in mid-December at Temple Restaurant Beijing, which kindly provided event space and food. ProfessorÂ Ma Huiqin ofÂ China Agricultural UniversityÂ discussed the wines with the judges after the tasting.
Here are a few commonÂ questions about GWC, followed by a list of the winners:
What is the purpose of GWC?
There are two keyÂ goals. First, we want to find the best inexpensive wines as decided by consumers. The retail price of most wines sold in China is under rmb100 but writers rarely focus on these.
Second, we want to boost consumer confidence. Many people are intimidated by wine and we want to empower them through involvement in the judging process. Our findings so far? It works!
Also, the ongoing government austerity programÂ has slashed official and state-owned spending on wine. This has shifted the focus to regular consumersÂ and makesÂ GWC even more relevant.
How are the wines judged?
The wines are judged blind. We ask consumers to taste each wine, chooseÂ “I love it“, “I like it“, “I dislike it” or “I hate it“, and write a few comments. This year’s comments included, “sweet but soft”, “simply juicy”, “vivid”, “makes people feel young”, “soft like water”, “sugar girl”, “passionate” andÂ “I think I can drink the whole bottle”.
Where do you get the wines?
We askedÂ topÂ importers /Â distributorsÂ to submit up to three wines. We focus on these companiesÂ because they distribute widely and that makes it easier for readers to find the wines. We also assume theyÂ will send us wines they think consumers like best, thus we get an idea of whatÂ the trade thinks is popular.
This year we focused on red wines and coveredÂ eight countries –Â Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, France, Portugal, Spain and South Africa — and more than a dozen grape varieties.Â The distributors were ASC, China Wines & Spirits, East Meets West, French Wine Paradox, Links Concept, Summergate and Torres.
Which winesÂ scored highest?
To determine the results, we add the “love it” (10 points), “like it” (7 points), “dislike it” (4 points) and “hate it” (1 point) scores for each wine and divide by the number of tasters in order to get an average score. The highest average scores win.
Here are the wines with the five highest scores followed by those with the most ‘Olympics medals’. I included links to the distributors and will update this post soon with more details about which retailers carry these brands.
Top Five Scores
As in previous years, wines from Argentina and South Africa made the top five.Â It was a “new world” sweep, save for one wine from Spain, as we once again found fruity wines getting the best scores.
4. KWV ‘Classic’ Pinotage 2012 from South Africa. Distributed by China Wines & Spirits, available from CWS, price rmb87.
We also asked each judge to pick a “gold“, “silver” and “bronze” medal winner, in other words, their three favorite wines. In addition to the five wines listed above, the following received at least three medal’:
Again, I will update with more details on where to get these wines.
While time pressure meant this year’s eventÂ had to be organized quickly and went less smoothly than last year, it was nevertheless fun to get together with consumers and see what they enjoy. Â This remains one of my favorite events to organize and I will have details soon on the 2015 edition of the Grape Wall Challenge.
Here is a list of our previous Grape Wall Challenges:
- Temple, 2013 (results).
- F by Tribute, 2012 (results).
- Modo, 2011 (results).
- Maison Boulud, 2010 (results)
- Maxim’s of Paris, 2009 (results).
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