France-Spain alliance: B+D and Penin team up on Chinese wines in Beijing

In a market where so much wine info and ‘education’ hails from England, despite that country being a fringe producer, tasters from the Spanish guide Penin and the French operation Bettane + Desseauve teamed up for the first time and judged nearly 200 local wines in China this week.

It’s always struck me as a bit ludicrous that critics from Italy, France and Spain, which produce over half the planet’s putaojiu (wine), have thousands of native grape varieties, and ooze quality and diversity, are not more prominent as sources of info. Yes, I realize there are historical reasons, and that language ties into that, but more voices from these nations would be good, no?

In any case, I am intrigued by this idea, so I asked the organizer of this year’s fourth annual B+D China wine competition, Guillaume Zhuang, if I could attend.

He said yes and I spent an afternoon in the observer area as Alexandra Rendall, Jiayin Liu and Guillaume Puzo of Bettane + Desseauve, Adolfo Gatell Robledo and Ziyang Zhang of Penin, and winemaker Pascal Marty tasted the first 100 or so wines of nearly 200 to be covered over two days. It was interesting to see their divergent opinions and scores on some of the wines, and the way in which they analyzed quality.

Although it wasn’t quite as lively as a few years ago, at the China wine tasting, when Michel Bettane was saying things like “This is really bad oak. Bad bad oak” or that the newer waves of Masters of Wines have “many bad tasters” and are “all about the money now.”

Luckily, I was able to sample wines after the judges finished each flight, and I tried about 30 or so, with labels from across the country, including (examples in brackets) from Yunnan (Xiaoling), Shanxi (Grace), Gansu (Xigu), Beijing (Lion and Bolongbao), Hebei (Canaan) and Shandong (Nine Peaks), among others. That might seem like lots, but there are thousands of wines now available in China, so it is increasingly difficult to get a grasp of all of the grape varieties, styles and wineries out there.

I plan to write more about this tasting. In fact, I plan to dedicate a newsletter to how tastings work, the gap between UK sources of info and other sources in the China market, the link between such tasters / tastings and the consumer, and more.

In the meantime, check out these past posts involving Bettane and Dessauve in Beijing / China:

Finally, the ninth annual B+D Le Grand Tasting is set for this Saturday, with eight hours of tasting, from 10 AM to 6 PM. Expect around 20 Champagne labels, ample selections from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone, plus some labels from the rest of France, as well as wines from Italy, Spain, Hungary, Chile and elsewhere.

On top of that, there will be a large number of local wines, including from Celebre, Li’s, Longting, Mihope, Mystic Island and Nine Peaks, among others. If you are interested in what’s happening with local bubbly, check out the traditional method sparkling wines from DEVO in Ningxia.

Early bird tickets are RMB298 for one person or RMB498 for two people. (It’s RMB458 per person at the door.) Use the QR code to book your ticket and see all the wines that will be on offer.

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