*** If you are interested to know more about Chinese wines, wine regions, producers, history and culture of wine in China, check out my forthcoming book:
with a foreword by Oz Clarke
Ebury Press, Penguin Randomhouse, 2019.
Available to pre-order now ***
LVMH Ao Yun, 2013, Yunnan Province
Cabernet Sauvignon 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%, 15.1% abv.
This wine is LVMH’s ambitious joint venture with Shangri-La Winery in the South-western Chinese province of Yunnan – the legendary region near the foothills of the Himalayas. Here, vines are grown on over 300 parcels of land ranging from 2,200 to 2,600m above sea level, pushing the frontiers of winemaking into lofty clouds on one of the most mythical terroirs on earth.
The colour of the wine is saturated and bold, which is typical of high-altitude wines where the grape skins are thick. It is ripe, pure and fresh, with sweet berries interweaved with subtle spices and cool minerality. The 15.1% alcohol is a surprise to me – the wine is very well balanced with super fine tannins, and I can really feel the fresh mountain air in the freshness of this wine. There are elements of Napa and Bordeaux in this wine, but it is also unmistakably speaking of a unique and special terroir.
Helan Qingxue Vineyard, Jia Bei Lan Reserve, 2014, Ningxia province
Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Franc 5%, 14.5% abv.
I am particularly excited to see this winery debuting at the London Decanter Fine Wine Encounter this year. A selection of white and red wines from their 2014 and 2015 were showcased to a curious international audience. The 2014 Reserve was particularly notable. It is a Bordeaux style, bold red wine with ripe cassis and smooth tannins. Generous, rounded, fruity and easy to enjoy on its own or with food (such as a Peking duck).
Helan Qingxue shot to international fame when its 2009 vintage of Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Blend won the most coveted ‘Red Bordeaux Varietal over £10 International Trophy’ at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2011, beating entries from Bordeaux itself and other premium wine regions, and hallmarked the arrival of serious winemaking in China to an international professional audience.
Kannan Winery, Ningxia province
Riesling 100%, 13.5% abv.
Another fantastic Chinese boutique winery debuting at the London Decanter Fine Wine Encounter this year. Winemaker Wang Fang was trained in Germany and has a special affinity with the Riesling grape. This wine is well balanced, clean with bright acidity and fresh citrus notes. It is an excellent example of Riesling’s potential in China.
Kanaan Pretty Pony, 2013:
Cabernet Sauvignon 90%, Merlot 10%, 14% abv.
A distinctive image of a lively horse adorns Kanaan’s wine labels, and represents this wine aptly. It is full of life, full-bodied, juicy, fruity and an undisputed crowd pleaser at the aforementioned London Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.
Skyline of Gobi (Tian Sai) winery, Year of the Dog, 2018, Xinjiang province
Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Marselan 20%, 14% abv.
It was a joy to drink this wine with a Chinese dinner, thanks to Michael Sun from Panda Fine Wine – the first dedicated Chinese wine distributor in the UK. The distinctive label is specially commissioned for 2018 – the Year of the Dog. Michael believes the British public would be especially drawn to this wine, as a nation of dog lovers. Of course the wine is delightful in its own right – it is made with the festive season in mind where the wine must be a crowd pleaser – fruity, generous, easy on the palate and pairs well with a Chinese banquet.
Notably, Marselan is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, initially developed for the Languedoc region but in recent years has found success in China. This is another exciting aspect of Chinese winemaking that is enriching the global repertoire of new tastes to explore.