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The International Wine Industry
While We Dream Of Exports Others Get Ready For Chinese Imports
Sunday, 18th December, 2011  - Richard Farmer

A cautionary note from the wine writer for the Canadian Winnipeg Free Press that I stumbled across recently:

"While we don't have much that's worth drinking on our shelves just yet, expect Chinese wine to get a lot of attention in the months and years to come. Many writers, critics and other wine folk who have visited their winemaking regions and/or tasted the wines coming out of China say that the country is poised to make a serious breakthrough in the global market.

Take, for example, the recent win of the He Lan Qing Xue winery's 2009 Jia Bei Lan Cabernet blend at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards. In a competition that only gives out 25 awards to the best among the 12,000 entries, the winery's win in the Red Bordeaux Varietal Over £10 in the International category is pretty huge.

Not that Robert Parker, the 100 point man, thinks that much of the 2009 Jia Bei Lan Cabernet blend. On a recent visit to China he described it as having "a very unusual smell." He told the China Daily:

"I don't know what kind of wood barrels they use, there is something not quite right about the aromatics that I felt was a flaw.

"Once I tasted it, it was a little bit more interesting in taste than it was in smell, but smell is so critical, it's the thing that sets your mind up to appreciate what is coming."

But Parker did speak enthusiastically of the Silver Heights wines from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, which he tasted during his stay in China.

"I did a tasting about Chinese wines five years ago. I convinced the Chinese there had to be terroir, there had to be segments with the right soil, the right climate where great wines can beproduced," he recalls. He's also impressed by Symphony, made in cooperation between TorresChina and Shanxi-based winery Grace Vineyard.

"The red wine wasn't as concentrated as Silver Heights, but it was beautifully charming, very elegant. The white wine was a muscat. It tasted like very young vines and a very new project. It has the right smell. The beginning taste was pleasant, but then it just became diluted," he says.

"I think China has a tremendous potential," he says. "Even in American wine circles, there is always a tendency to criticize local wines and favor the peer wines because they have thecategory in history. You'll have the same thing in China. No matter how good the Chinese wines have become, there will be skeptics and people who say the peer wines are so much better. But blind tastings can be revelations," he says.

"I decided when I started writing about wine 32 years ago that I was going to judge what was in the bottle. That is the only thing that was important. For me, I am writing for the wine consumers because I am a wine consumer."

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