Short walk to Longdai: Lafite’s Shandong project

(This article first appeared in my newsletter last October.)

The walk to Lafite’s Longdai winery from neighboring Treaty Port is about that from my apartment in Beijing to our neighborhood wine shop.

I got out of bed, had scrambled eggs and pancakes in Treaty Port’s kitchen, and headed out. I went down the steep driveway and along a two-lane road and was at Lafite in ten minutes.

My first visit to these parts was over a decade ago, with professor Ma Huiqin and Greek winemaker Mihalis Boutaris. The project was in its early stages and we visited then-director Gerard Colin, known for his work at Grace Vineyard, at his house in nearby Mulangou Village. He explained plans for the current terraced system and for delaying harvest to get the grape ripeness that eluded many.

My most recent trip was in January to taste the first commercial wine, also named Longdai. (I first tasted it at VinExpo Shanghai several months earlier.)

I met GM Charles Treutenaere and hospitality manager De-Ci Wei out front and we toured the facilities, which draw on French and Chinese themes. From the rear, we could see the five newest hectares of Cabernet Franc and Marselan, which gives Longdai 420 plots spread over more than 30 hectares. In the distance, there are new imposing wineries in the works or just finished, as well as an equestrian facility.

Then we tried the wines. I’m not sure how long the bottles were open, but this wine was more mellow and balanced than the other bottles I’ve tried.

The nose on Longdai had lots of ripe dark berry plus rose and coal aromas, with ripeness in the mouth, along with herbal and spice notes. Really tight tannins: this wine is 50 percent new oak, 50 percent from tank.

The second label, Hu Yue, was recently bottled and took some time to wake up. It had a lighter red fruit profile with those same red roses on the nose. Lighter, more playful, more red fruit, very youthful.

Longdai lists for rmb2388 and Hu Yue for rmb988. Visitors can book tour / tasting packages of rmb200 or rmb500. Most people I know who bought the wine are keeping it as an investment.

Finally, Longdai has a new technical director, Denise Cosentino, who recently worked in fellow Shandong winery Nine Peaks in Laixi. Cosentino, hailing from Italy, joined 47 winemakers from 19 nations for a two-year Ningxia Winemakers Challenge from 2015 to 2017 that I consulted on. She was partnered there with winery Leirenshou. She has also taught at Northwest A&F University in Xian and done stints at Kim Crawford in New Zealand and AdamsWein in Germany.

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