Ever thought about switching your fancy French bottle of wine for something a little closer to home? Probably not, but the Chinese wine industry has slowly been growing and developing over the last few decades to reach a peak of popularity and appreciation. Where there was once very little known about the industry, key farms have ensured that their produce is being enjoyed by experts and consumers alike (you now included). We asked some of our sommeliers what their newfound favourites are so that you can dive into the region.
Johann Kwon, Carbone
In 2017 I attended a wine tasting event for Chinese wines. Before this, I had not had much exposure to Chinese wines and did not have much access to information. But the event was so enlightening; the producers charmed me into a new perspective on the future of the Chinese wine industry.
At its centre, the Ningxia region acts as the Bordeaux and Burgundy or Piedmont and Tuscany to Chinese wine. I can highly recommend Kanaan Winery’s Pretty Pony 2013. The Kanaan Winery was founded by Chinese-German, Wang Fang, who studied at Giessen University in Germany. After many years in the country, she partnered with German winemakers and used her exclusive knowledge of the wine industry in China to establish Kanaan Winery. Their flagship wine, Pretty Pony, is a blend consisting of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. The wine is bold and opulent, with an elegant layer of ripe black fruits and cassis with a delicate balance between acidity and structure. It is a wonderfully well-balanced wine that pairs well with diverse Asian cuisine and flavours thanks to its friendly smooth tannin texture and fruit-forward juicy flavours.
Arnaud Bardary, BELON
Ningxia is a semi-arid area on the foothills of the Helan mountain range, planted mainly with Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot… but also a distinctive one called Marselan. With a growing number of fantastic wineries, it can be difficult to choose just one but my fondest memories are of Kanaan Winery. At its head is “Crazy Fang”, who is extremely passionate about her vineyards and the region. There, seated at the table with other sommeliers and winemakers from the area, while indulging in a roasted lamb and exchanging a few “Ganbeis”; I had the chance to taste Black Beauty. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is well-balanced and elegant, with notes of ripe bramble fruits on both nose and palate, complemented by spices, pepper and silky tannins… It is really quite amazing.
Michael Tully, Buenos Aires Polo Club
My favourite so far would probably be Chateau Rongzi’s Le Cordon Bleu 2013. It is from the inland Shangxi Region and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Marselan and Merlot. It is a fresh, medium to full bodied red with a lot of floral aromas, and a mix of both fresh and dried black fruits such as plum, prune and blackberry. Finishing with smooth tannins and a touch of black pepper. It is a wine that surprised me with its subtlety, but with Jean-Claude Berrouet (former winemaker at Chateau Petrus) as a consultant, it makes sense how they can produce a fresh and gentle wine from such a harsh winegrowing region.
Kevin Lu, Buenos Aires Polo Club
The industry is divided into seven main regions and one of the most interesting of those is Huailai. There is a winery called Domaine Franco Chinois with a superb Petit Manseng Late Harvest. The winery is a joint venture between China and France and has been in operation for over two decades. The wine here demonstrates a great balance of sweetness and acidity along with a superb quality of fruit to build up the layers of flavours.