Top 100 Chinese wines | Shuai Zekun’s 2021 list for James Suckling

Wow, critic Shuai Zekun, who reviews for James Suckling, just released some kind of top 100 Chinese wine list.

There are the expected entries, like Ao Yun by LVMH and Longdai by DBR Lafite — yawn — but also nice surprises like a Dornfelder from Petit Mont and a white from Bolongbao produced right here within Beijing city limits. The top wine by score is that Ao Yun from Yunnan while the “wine of the year” hails from Kanaan in Ningxia. I also bet this list inspires a bit of outrage, too, including from Silver Heights fanatics when they see Emma’s Reserve barely making the list at #99.

Other well-known names in the top 20 include Helan Qing Xue, known for winning that Decanter award a decade ago; Xiao Ling from Yunnan; the sibling wineries Domaine Franco Chinois and Canaan just outside Beijing in Huailai County; Chateau Sungod, also in Huailai County; and two wineries consulted on by Deng Zhongxiang, China’s breakout star of the past two years, Lansai and Rong Yuan Mei.

To be clear, Shuai’s list does have its limits. It’s based on about 300 wines in a scene that now has thousands of options. Also, there are some producers that might have made the top 100 but with wines he told me he has not yet tasted–an example would be Chateau Hedong. And wineries are capped at three entries in the top 100.

“We have ranked this list of Top 100 Wines from China after weighing in on quality, the ‘wow’ factor, value, availability and consistency, and no more than three wines were selected from each producer,” he writes.

But as a long-time consumer of Chinese wine, I’m happy to see many of my favorite wines listed, even if I don’t agree with every pick or the order. This is a valuable list for those getting started with Chinese wines.

I also have to add that I’ve met Shuai a half-dozen times the past year, at trade fairs and tastings and restaurants, and he’s always been down to earth and open with sharing his opinions. Frankly, I find the focus on wine education, scores and contest medals–on appeals to authority–to have been excessive this past decade, especially given how the wine market has stagnated and struggled. But they are a reality and Shuai seems the kind of person who can best straddle the bridge between producers and consumers.

I’ve got a bunch of work to do, so this is just a quick post, and I’ll write more about this list later. Shuai Zekun’s list is currently available for free at this link.

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