Can Chinese Wine Be Better Than Bordeaux?

Here’s one for the book. AFP have reported that a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Grace Vineyard in Ningxia came out as the top-scoring bottle in a wine tasting held in Beijing. Wines from Ningxia took the four top slots in the contest and a 2009 Medoc from the Lafite vineyard in Bordeaux was the highest-scoring French wine — in fifth place.

The top five were:

  1. Grace Vineyard Chairman’s Reserve 2009

  2. Silver Heights The Summit 2009

  3. Helan Qing Xue Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009

  4. Grace Vineyard Deep Blue 2009

  5. Barons de Rothschild Collection Saga Medoc 2009

For a detailed report visit Jim Boyce at the Grape Wall of China Blog.

The wines were tasted by a group of wine experts — five French and five Chinese – and the results are being “heralded” as echoing the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976 between Californian and French wines. The surprise victory of the Californian wines resulted in the film Bottle Shock over three decades later. It’s amazing what people pick out to use as headlines. As Jim Boyce states:

We never claimed this was the Beijing version of The Judgment of Paris. Or that we were pairing Ningxia wines with the best of Bordeaux. We used a price range to compare top Ningxia wines with bigger and better-known Bordeaux brands sold here by major distributors — brands consumers are more likely to know and have access to.”

He also addressed two criticisms of the contest. The first being that Bordeaux wines face 48% in taxes and this makes it unfair to compare them with Chinese wines of the same price. Chinese wines face a consumption tax and VAT which reduces the gap from 48% to just under 20%, diminishing the claim about unfairness.

The second claim was that Bordeaux would have done better if they had used estate wines:

Maybe. Yesterday’s tasting suggested Ningxia wines can hold their own against bigger Bordeaux brands, which are not only enjoyed the world over but also, in the case of our contest, retail for up to rmb350. I think that is of interest to consumers at large and hope it gets people opening some bottles.

A nice follow up would be to compare those Ningxia wines against smaller hand-picked Bordeaux estates. I think that would be of more interest to those knowledgeable about wine. Someone should organize such an event and I would be willing to help out if needed.”

I think this is a great idea and if I could manage to send over some Chateau La Fleur Morange I would . . .it’s a super wine from a small estate and I’d be interested in Jim Boyce’s opinion.

Asides from the debate over the contest it’s good to see wines from Ningxia making their presence felt on the world map. Ningxia is a remote region of north west China, just south of Inner Mongolia, that began growing grapes for fine wine only a decade ago. The region’s farmland is the 4th largest in China with one of the 10 biggest pasture areas in the country.

Despite the threat of desertification in some areas, agriculture is still an important part of the local economy, especially in northern areas where the Yellow River passes through the region. Ningxia also produces half of the world’s Cashmere. It is also a favourite film location for filming Chinese historical epics – Genghis Khan himself died there, after being mortally wounded in battle,

Leave a Comment