China’s First Growths

With a Blog title of China’s First Growths everyone will be expecting a blog about Bordeaux’s First Growths but this is about China’s home grown First Growths. In other words I wonder if in 20 years time we will be talking about star Chinese wines that the West is snapping up at equally stellar prices?

This might sound daft but given the fact that Lafite has already planted its feet in a joint venture with CITIC (China’s largest state-owned investment company) this isn’t such a silly notion.

Lafite now has over 60 acres of vines on the peninsula of Penglai in Shandong province. The Penglai peninsula is on its easternmost tip of the province and wine companies there already produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Some say the region is China’s Bordeaux. The latitude of Penglai is the same as Bordeaux and the Napa Valley – 37º.

Penglai is one of the three largest Chinese wine producing areas and has more than 40 wineries making wine mainly for domestic consumption – such as COFCO Great Wall, Tianjin Dynasty, Suntime International, Château Huadong Parry and Jin Liufu Shangri-La. The annual yield of wine accounts for 1/5 in China.

Christophe Salin, the Lafite group’s managing director, said that they have spent 15 years looking for the right opportunity in China, five years studying the chosen site, and do not expect to release any wine before 2015.

Jeannie Cho Lee – Asia’s very own Master of Wine – tweeted recently that she had visited Lafite’s vineyard and that they were growing mostly Cabernet Sauvignon but also Syrah as it seems to be a growing favourite (does this mean

we will see an increase in popularity with the Rhone’s fine wines out in China?). Jeannie also said that a mini Great Wall was being created around the vineyard using 40,000 tons of rocks!

OK – you may be saying that I have ended up talking about Bordeaux after all but Dynasty Fine Wines (also in Shandong) have released a press statement which confirms their aspirations to becoming an internationally renowned and recognised quality fine wine brand . . .

Here is a quote:

“In the emerging domestic wine industry, with wine enterprises constantly taking measures to develop their business, Dynasty Fine Wines Group Ltd., a well-known wine enterprise with thirty years of experience in wine making and selling, is particularly active in brand promotion and seeking international recognition.

Dynasty’s endeavours are worthy, as world’s top winemaker Michel Rolland’s recent visit to its Tianjin factory and appreciation to its products are definitely a great reward to its efforts.

During Michel Rolland’s visit to Dynasty in Tianjin, he tasted Dynasty’s wine products, and without any hesitation, recommended Dynasty Merlot Dry Red Wine 2003 to media from France, Spain, Germany and China when he was receiving interviews.

Michel Rolland’s visit initiated an in-depth communication in the wine industry between France and China, which was brought about by an unexpected encounter at the Hong Kong International Spirit Fair held in May.

At the exposition, Dynasty exhibited several excellent wines whose aromas attracted Michel Rolland, the renowned winemaker who has tasted all top-class wines around the world. ”

I didn’t believe fine wines could be produced in China thirty years ago, but now I’m tasting the wines produced by Dynasty, and they are among the world’s best,” he remarked after tasting Dynasty’s wines at Dynasty’s booth.

No rewards can be greater than the recognition and appreciation from Michel Rolland for Dynasty’s conscientious endeavour in wine making over thirty years and significant contribution to China’s wine industry.”

Apparently Michel Rolland said: “There is room for Chinese winery to improve, this is why I came here and discussed with Dynasty how to enhance their technique to make finer wines, though Dynasty’s high-end wines are now comparable with world-class wines.”

So China has high hopes for the future and has the financial investment to back it up along with consulting oenologists and experts from the West who are keen to share their knowledge and experience. A home grown Chinese First Growth won’t happen overnight but the undiscovered potential of China’s terroirs is an intriguing prospect.

Leave a Comment