Importer and distributor The Wine Republic has became an instant contender in local wines by partnering with three unique Chinese operations, Xiao Pu aka Petit Garden from Ningxia and siblings Domaine Franco-Chinois and Canaan from Hebei, thus giving it a portfolio that covers a smart range of grape varieties, styles and price ranges.
Xiao Pu 小圃 is a boutique label by winemaker Ian Dai that makes everything from pet nat, a traditional type of bubbly, to low-intervention wines, and appeals especially to younger more adventurous drinkers. Dai presented a half-dozen of his Ningxia labels plus samples from Yunnan at a media and trade tasting by The Wine Republic at Onishi Saketen in Beijing in late May (see photos below).
(One of Dai’s wines has no label and is called Naked. It would be fun to use his name, too, maybe as a side label, for a fun palindromic edge!)
Domaine Franco-Chinois (DFC) and Canaan are neighboring wineries in Huailai County, just outside Beijing. DFC was set up as a joint China-France demonstration vineyard in the late 1990s before businesswoman Cher Wang acquired it in 2010. Often referred to as ZhongFa (China-France), DFC was the first operation in China to plant Marselan, a grape increasingly identified with this country, and is also well-known for another rising grape, Petit Manseng. It has long had high expectations.
Canaan, established in 2006, is also owned by Wang. The team spent 13 years getting its vineyards and winery in order, including tests with grape varieties at different altitudes, before the wine made it to market. Canaan bottles under the name Shi Bai Pian—Chapter & Verse in English—and includes Riesling, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Merlot and more in its range. It also made the first million-point wine.
Again, this is a nice trio, with Canaan doing a fairly high volume (think millions of bottles) of good quality wines, with DFC being smaller but having flagship products like Marselan and Petit Manseng, and with Xiao Pu having cutting-edge appeal.
(Fun fact: DFC / Canaan president Richard Li and Wine Republic co-owner Campbell Thompson were once colleagues at importer / distributor ASC Fine Wines.)
This isn’t the first Chinese wine experience for The Wine Republic. It was the first national distributor for Ningxia winery Helan Qing Xue a decade ago although that deal fizzled out after a few years.
The Wine Republic was founded with a focus on cool-climate wines, especially from Australia, but has since diversified its portfolio. Key brands include Loimer and Heinrich from Austria, Greywacke and Catalina Sounds from New Zealand, and Tim Adams, Chapel Hill and Oakridge from Australia.
Some photos from the Xiao Pu trade tasting in Beijing.
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