Uncorked: Chen Lizhong of Tiansai Vineyards

Having worked in China’s judicial system as a judge and later in the automobile industry, Chen Lizhong’s foray into wine was quite a career change. Her winery, Tiansai Vineyards, is considered as a market leader in China and is located over 1,100 metres above sea level in Yanqi of China’s northwestern Xinjiang. Producing wines mainly from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the winery was one of the first wineries in the region to be certified organic by Chinese authorities and has two seasoned winemakers consulting on its team, including China’s foremost wine expert Li Demei and Lilian Carter, former winemaker for Pernod Ricard’s Helan Moutain Wines in Ningxia province. Chen Lizhong talks to dbHK about the best advice she ever received, her wine bucket list and a fantastic bottle of 1998 Château Haut-Brion.

Chen LizhongWhat vintage are you?

1968. For the Old World it’s not a good vintage.

What bottle sparked your love of wine?

The wine that left the deepest impression on me is a 1998 Château Haut-Brion. There are also some wines from Burgundy. What really spoke to me was how these winemakers’ love and devotion for wine is really translated into the wines we drink.

What would you be as a wine?

In the past, I would think of myself as a Burgundian wine, low-key and subtle. Now I feel I am more of a Tiansai wine. Every day, there’s improvement in the wine, and there are always surprises.

Where are you happiest? 

In the vineyards.

What’s your greatest vice? 

Wining and dining with friends, and talking about life.

Best advice you ever got? 

There’s no short cut to success. For every little thing, if you do it well, then it’s already quite amazing.

Your cellar’s underwater, which bottle would you dive in and save? 

I will try everything in my power to save every bottle.

What’s the best and worst thing about the wine business? 

The best part is that everyone is very optimistic, active and open-minded. The worst part is the constant drinking.

What’s on your wine bucket list?

On my bucket list, there are not always perfect, highly rated grand cru wines. All the wines have to be unique, and have a different style that will really impress me.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 

My idol, Robert Mondavi. He was good at making wines and also brought local wine industry to a whole new different level.

Personal satisfaction (Parker points – out of 100)

95-98. 100 is more of a personal preference, while for me 95 is already perfect.

Which wine would you like served at your funeral?

The last wine I made on earth.

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