17-19th March, 2019 – Düsseldorf, Germany – I spent three days at Prowein with the Chinese wine delegation.
Here are my key takeaways
Prowein attracts a professional wine trade audience each year – a record 61,500 visitors from 142 countries in 2019. It was encouraging to see open mindedness, curiosity and even recognition among the visitors of certain Chinese wine regions and grape varieties. Many visitors asked to taste the wines systematically – a sign of real interest – for example, by region, from whites to reds, or by varietal. It was also great to see that the Chinese delegates were engaging the visitors in conversations and sometimes in-depth discussions about style, terroir and techniques. The learning and exchanges were certainly two-way and constructive to all.
Back in 2015 at Vinexpo, I heard a lot of comments about Chinese wines along the lines of technical adequacy. There were few comments about region specific styles or varietal characteristics. This time though, Chinese wines were no longer talked of in terms of competency – that was a given. People were asking about sub-regions within a province, they were taking notes about aspects of mountain ranges or distances to lakes and seas. They were enquiring why Marselan does well in China and may become the ‘star variety of China’, they were wondering what the Ningxia vs. Shandong soil does to Cabernet Sauvignon…
The interest is genuine, and anticipation of seeing more of these wines coming to Western shores is building. Maybe next year, we will hear more people asking for price lists!
We meet for the love of wine, and the ‘up’rise of Chinese wines
When I heard that Professor Li Demei – the leading advocate and educator on wines of China, and contributor to my book, The Chinese Wine Renaissance, was organising a delegation of Chinese wine producers to showcase 50+ Chinese wines from seven regions at Prowein – one of the largest annual international wine fairs held in Düsseldorf, Germany, I immediately cleared my diary and booked my flight.
This year, China is well represented by ‘Up China’ – a delegation representing 16 wineries from 7 regions and 50+ wines. In addition, Changyu Pioneer Wine Company and COFCO Great Wall both have their own stands.
The participating wineries were:
Silk Road (Xinjiang)
Helan Qingxue (Ningxia)
Fei Tswei (Ningxia)
Martin (Hebei, Huailai)
Alan (Hebei, Huailai)
Kunjue (Hebei, Huailai)
Amethyst (Hebei, Huailai)
Nubes (Hebei, Huailai)
Bodegas Langes (Hebei, Changli)
COFCO Great Wall (various, notably Hebei, Shandong)
Changyu (various, notably Yantai, Ningxia, Liaoning)
DAY 1 – 17th March
On the first day of the three day trade fair, I was invited by the Drinks Business to attend a blind tasting of Cabernet blends produced by some of the leading global wine brands, one of which was Changyu Noble Dragon. Some of the results were rather surprising, I shall leave it to the Drinks Business to disclose the results in due course.
In the evening, Up China hosted a wonderful soiree at Steigenberger Park Hotel, of Chinese wine tasting, great food and high profile speakers, including Ms. Huang Ying, Vice-Counsellor General of the P. R. China in Düsseldorf; Mr Quentin Havaux from Concours Mondial de Bruxelles; Marius Berlemann, incoming Prowein general manager of Messe Düsseldorf Shanghai Co. Ltd. The toastmaster being none other than Mr Ch’ng Poh Tiong — Decanter Asia Wine Award Vice Chair and one of the most recognizable and prolific Asia based wine writer and consultant. And of course, Professor Li Demei and winery owners took the guests on a whirlwind tour of various wine regions of China, with tantalising images of their beautiful vineyards and local scenes, while guests sipped on the wines and were treated to some fabulous prizes courtesy of the hosts. One of the prizes included a copy of my book, The Chinese Wine Renaissance, and I was also invited to chat about my book with Mr Ch’ng Poh Tiong. I was particularly pleased to do a book swap with Mr Ch’ng – he has recently published a mouthwateringly illustrated book called 100 Top Chinese Restaurants of the World, which is packed with information about where to have the most iconic Chinese dishes from various culinary regions, and food and wine pairings.
DAY 2- 18th March
The day started bright and early as Professor Li Demei was holding four in-depth, region specific tastings throughout the day, including Xinjiang, Ningxia, Huailai/Qing Huang Dao, Shandong/Shanxi.
The interests far exceeded the space available, as people huddled around the stand to hear Professor Li’s informative explanations. I must say I was deeply touched by the work ethics of the team, from Professor Li, to the elderly Mr Rong ‘The Chief’ among the winery owners, and the reps and helpers behind the scenes, diligently handing out clean glasses and brochures and showcasing the wine bottles and labels and maps to the purposeful and the curious visitors. The stand was so busy with ceaseless traffic, I admire the passion that kept the team going full throttle for three days!
DAY 3- 19th March
Highlight of the last day is Professor Li Demei’s masterclass, held at the Prowein Forum.
The fifty or so available seats were filled in an instance, with many more people queuing outside wishing to join the tasting.
Professor Li chose the following nine wines, covering a diverse range of styles, varieties and regions.
According to Ao Yun’s press release, this special glass features a sharp cut and narrow diameter edge that allows for a more precise tasting experience and enhance the aromas on the nose and palate. Ao Yun’s chief winemaker Maxence Dulou explains, “Tasting Ao Yun in its bespoke glass highlights the balance of fruit and intensity, as well as the silky texture and rounded tannins of this wine.” The larger bowl of the glass was specifically designed to better oxygenate the wine. “Since Ao Yun is vinified at altitude with 25% less oxygen, it requires more contact with the air prior to tasting”.
My book had a great time at the fair too!
Kindly received by the Chinese delegates, including Up China, Changyu and Great Wall. Here’s to a second Chinese-English edition perhaps?
Smiles all round for a successful and memorable fair!
The unforgettable ladies…
A special mention to the incredible ladies in this Chinese delegation – they exuded elegance, charm and enthusiasm, like the wines they were pouring! By night, they donned beautiful Chinese dresses of silk and satin for the evening gala, by day, they rolled up their sleeves pouring wines, stacking shelves and on the last day, cleared up the exhibition stand to leave the area clean – what wonderful ambassadors for Chinese wines and Chinese women!
See you next year Prowein! Danke schön und bis dann!
Image and video credits: Yan Jie 彦杰