Happy Chinese New Year 2012—it is the year of the dragon, the only supernatural animal in the Chinese zodiac, and so a year considered to be the luckiest in the lunar domain. It is not luck, however, which has seen Chinese wine rise to the attention of enthusiasts worldwide.
The Rise of Chinese Wine
When you think of Chinese wine, think of Chilean or Argentinean wine ten or fifteen years ago. China’s wine production and quality of wine is growing at an enormous speed, probably even faster than South America was over ten years ago. In 2007, wine writer Tom Cannavan expected Chinese wine production to grow seven times faster than the rest of the globe. In 2008, wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd predicted that within 50 years the quality of Chinese wine will rival that of Bordeaux.
The big reason for this enormous growth in Chinese wine is because of their growing economy, and the (consequent) fact that wealthy businessman see the potential for wine production in China. With expert old world winemakers leading the charge with their expertise, China is poised to make a serious statement towards the industry.
There are around 400 wineries in China starting to the produce locally grown wines. Of these wineries, there are a few who have gone on to gain some notable recognition globally.
In this blog we’re going to take a look at some of these tastes.
The Big Five: Chinese Wine Distributors
1. Changyu Pioneer Winery
This is the oldest vineyard in China, established in 1892. In 2007 it was ranked the 10th largest winery in the world, and it is the first Chinese vineyard to make the global top ten wineries list.
They produce a variety of different styles of wine: ice wine, sparkling wine, red and white table wines, and even brandy. They are most well known in North America for Cabernet Sauvignon, which is similar to Bordeaux style of Cabernet Sauvignon: a wine with a medium body with dark cherries.
2. Dynasty Winery
This vineyard has been in operation since 1980 and was formed through a partnership with the Tiangjin City Grape Garden and the well-known Remy Martin (producers of fine Cognac.) Just like Changyu Winery they produce ice wine, red and white table wines, sparkling wine and brandy. They tend to use high quality Muscat and Riesling graes to give their whites a more refreshing fruit taste. Their dry red wines have a rich Cabernet Sauvignon flavor and are by far their bestselling wine.
3. Dragon Seal
Somewhat similar to the Dynasty Winery, Dragon Seal is a result of the experience of French wine making. Dragon Seal has had many milestones including producing the first sparkling wine and creating the first regional wine—a dynasty in its own right, and if the luck of the dragon is on their side, we may see better things from them this, the year of the dragon. In any case, they have developed a large following in Chine for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the latter of which has a nice balance between fruit and oak.
Dragon Seal had had a lot of success with their wines in China, and are slowing breaking into the North American market. The two wines you may have come across are the Dragon Seal Chardonnay and Dradon Seal Hualilai Reserve. The latter is a regionally grown wine.
4. Jia Bei Lan
Like the mythical dragon, this winery is somewhat mysterious. Information regarding Jia Bei Lan is hard to come by, but what we do know is intriguing to say the least. Just recently four wines from this region took part in a blind French Bordeaux tasting and took home top honors. We’re not talking premium Bordeaux like Chateau Lafite, but we’re still dealing with some good French Bordeaux. So hats off to Jia Bei Lan. If you’re wondering, the award-winning blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Gernisch, which is similar to Cabernet Franc—these grapes are handpicked and aged in French oak.
5. Dragon’s Hallow Winery
Dragon’s Hallow is the first winery to produce high quality wine in China, and that is because unlike other wine producers in China, Dragon’s Hallow had set out to be an international brand rather than a local brand. Their winery and vineyards are located on the same parallel as Bordeaux and The Napa Valley, as well as their winemaker from New Zealand. They produce a variety of wine including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Riesling; the latter two of these wines has received a fair degree of success in North America. The Merlot has hints of spice and has similar characteristics to a nice Italian Chianti, and the Riesling has a nice buttery, honey flavor.
Next Chinese New Year…
You may see even more Chinese wine than this year. It is a trend which is definitely growing, and soon enough we’ll begin to see more examples of great wine emerging from the orient onto the world scene.
Stay tuned for our next blog about Chinese culture and wine!