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Sacre Bleu! Chinese Wines Pip French Wines

Wednesday 04 January 2012

The Chinese are not only buying up French vineyards, but they are now beating them at their own game.

In a recent blind tasting of six Chinese and six French Bordeaux wines the oriental wines won the top four places.

The tasting panel consisted of ten experts, five from China and five from France.

The top four wines were:

  • Grace Vineyard Chairman’s Reserve 2009
  • Silver Heights The Summit 2009
  • Helan Qing Xue Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009
  • Grace Vineyard Deep Blue 2009

The other wines in the tasting were: Barons de Rothschild Collection Saga Medoc 2009, Calvet Reserve De L’Estey Medoc 2009, Cordier Prestige Rouge 2008, Kressmann Grande Réserve St-Émilion AOC 2008, Mouton Cadet Reserve Medoc 2009, and Silver Heights Family Reserve 2009.

Such is the level of embarrassment in France about the result that there has been almost no coverage of it by the French press.

The tasting was inspired by a wine from the Ningxia region of China (He Lan Qing Xue’s Jia Bei Lan 2009) wining best Bordeaux-style wine over £10 at the Decanter World Wine Awards earlier this year, a result that itself aroused huge controversy in the wine industry, particularly in France!

In fairness to the French, their wines suffered a price handicap, for within the price range selected for the tasting the wines from France were hit by import tax differential of around 24%.

'It’s not a level playing field', said Thomas Briollet, one of the judges from France and a wine import and export manager in China.

The selected Chinese wines were from the same Ningxia region in Northwest China that performed so well in the Decanter competition, and were probably the best that the country could offer. Most Chinese wines are, by contrast, of rather poor quality.

Nevertheless, the result echoed the famous ‘Judgement of Paris’ in 1976 when the French were humbled by a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay that beat their French counterparts in a blind tasting. In one fell swoop the result put Californian wines on the world wine map.

The Chinese are also well on the way to owning a fair chunk of the vineyards and chateaux of Bordeaux. In the past few weeks buyers from China have purchased two chateaux – Lezongars and Grand Branet – bringing to 13 the number of Chinese owners of Bordeaux wine estates.

Major growers from around the world are also reciprocating by establishing vineyards in China, with Moet Chandon already having committed themselves to 'Champagne' production in China, and rumours ablaze that such prestigious growers as Château Cheval Blanc and Château d'Yquem are interested in establishing a foothold.

Wine consumption in China has doubled in the last five years and the country is expected to become the top wine consumer in the world within the next 20 years.

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