With businesses gearing up for the Chinese New Year let’s take a look at what the world of wine has to offer for the Year of the Ram.
February 19th heralds in the Year of the Ram with hopes for a calm and creative year ahead; the Ram being symbolic of peace and harmony. Businesses are taking advantage of marketing goods for the Chinese New Year and celebrations are planned in London and Manchester.
Johnny Walker have released a special edition bottle of its Blue Label blend sporting a design inspired by the famous Chinese painting called the ‘Three Rams’ to mark the occasion. Wines, too, can be labelled to maximise on people favouring the presiding animal for each year – Okanagan Crush Pad owners in Vancouver have produced Haywire Lunar Year red and white with labels depicting the Chinese character for ‘sheep’.
I have not seen any wine labelling specifically designed for the Year of the Ram in France but there are several existing wines that fit the bill.
The Black Sheep of Bordeaux
Jean Luc Thunevin’s Bad Boy (Mauvais Garcon) brand is already popular in Asia and has an interesting story behind it. Thunevin famously pioneered Garagiste wines at his Chateau Valandraud in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux. His painstaking perfectionism soon took off and he added to the range with Virginnie de Valandraud (named for his daughter in 1997). He also created the ‘forbidden’ wines L’Interdit de V…D and L’Interdit de B…NT…N, pushing the boundaries of Bordeaux’s rules and regulations.
As you can imagine this modern concept of wine making ruffled quite a few feathers amongst the more traditional chateaux owners, especially when wine critic Robert Parker scored Thunevin’s Valandraud higher than the world’s most sought after wine, Chateau Petrus, in 1995.
Thunevin was affectionately christened the ‘Bad Boy of Saint Emilion’ and a ‘Black Sheep’ by critic Robert Parker.
Thunevin always makes me smile as he is not only a brilliant winemaker (his Chateau Valandraud was dramatically promoted to Premier Cru, First Growth, status in 2012) but he has a sense of humour and a good marketing head on his shoulders. His tongue in cheek response to the establishment was the creation of Bad Boy in 2003. New additions to his range are Baby Bad Boy and the sparkling Cremant de Bordeaux, Bad Girl.
Garagiste Key Facts:
1. Garagistes are more often known nowadays as micro-cuvees or micro-chateau as their production is tiny.
2. The principle behind the wines is that ‘technique can surmount terroir’.
3. These winemakers typically have no grand chateau and often make their wines in small buildings, hence the term ‘Vins de Garage’.
4. The wines enjoy a loyal cult following and can command high prices, being prized by collectors and enthusiasts who enjoy this style of wine.
Bordeaux’s Shepherd Baron
With the Ram as its emblem Premier Cru (First Growth) Chateau Mouton Rothschild is the top pick for Chinese wine lovers celebrating the Year of the Ram (see Lucky Chateau Mouton Rothschild Vintages For The Chinese Year of the Ram). We are used to seeing Mouton’s more affordable Mouton Cadet here in the UK but the chateau has long produced cheaper wines under the Baron Philippe de Rothschild brand. We don’t often see them over here as they are limited production and available online direct from La Baronnie.
Le Berger Baron (The Shepherd Baron) – Produced since the mid 1960s this range includes white, red and rose wines.
La Bélière (Aries – after the Baron’s birth sign) – Red, white and rose wines produced since the 1990s.
Agneau (The Lamb) – Bordeaux reds (Pauillac, Saint Emilion and Medoc), white (Graves) and rose.
La Bergerie Baron Philippe de Rothschild (The Baron’s Sheepfold). No longer produced but some vintages and labels exist from the mid 1960s – mid 70s.
Red or White Wine for the Year of the Ram?
Colours in Chinese culture have meanings and certain colours are considered to be lucky. Lucky colours for the Year of the Ram are purple, red and green so I think we can safely say that red wine would be the best choice!
I’d be interested to know your suggestions for suitable wines for the Chinese New Year so if you know of any ‘Rams’ out there please get in touch!