Quality of Chinese wine sees ‘significant’ boost
China’s appetite for fine wine is pushing up the quality of its locally-produced offer, according to a new report from Robert Parker Wine Advocate, as the country achieves its first 95 point score.
The Robert Parker Wine Advocate’s China Fine Wine report 2021, which is now in its second year, has reviewed wines from nearly 30 of China’s producers from the Shandong province on the coast to the vineyards above Yunnan’s valleys, finding some “outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character” – including China’s first 95 point wine.
The top scoring wine was the 2018 Ao Yun by Maxence Dulou and viticulturalist Remi Vincent. The report almost noted the quality of Ao Yun’s yet-to-be-released Village Cru wines from the same vintage, which highlighted the importance of the terraces vineyards of the Shuori Village. There were also strong vintages in 2019 in Helan Shan, in the Ningxia Helan Mountain area, which saw several 94 point scores, including Kanaan Winery’s 2019 Crazy Fang Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Mihope’s 2019 10th Anniversary Release.
Nicolas Achard, chief executive officer of Robert Parker Wine Advocate noted that there had been a growing appetite for fine wine as well as locally produced wine among Chinese consumers in the last few years, and this has pushed up the quality of Chinese wines “significantly”. In large part, this was due to “the development of passionate and innovative domains and winemakers,” he said, as well as the progressive nature of many of China’s fine wine estates, and their diversity.
The rise of a younger generation of progressive, independent winemaker has seen some exciting modern styles, the report said, including small-batch winemaker Ian Dai and Ma Jie (of the Petit Mont label) who are aiming to discover where China’s best terroirs are.
There is also increasing diversity of grapes varieties as the “search for China’s signature grape continues”, the report noted.
“[China’s] winemakers are showing greater understanding of its grape varieties rather than simply making more Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends, ” it said. “Cabernet Franc is especially strong now at Longting Winery (in Shandong’s Penglai) as well as from Ruwen and Yuandian (both in Ningxia’s Helan Shan). Merlot has a bright future: notable Merlots come not just from Chapter & Verse (in Hebei’s Huailai) but also now from Jade Vineyard (Ningxia). Malbec looks promising in Ningxia, given the progress that Xige and others have made with the variety.
There was also evidence of even greater experimentation among a small number of more progressive producers—it pointed to the Grace Vineyard’s 2012 Angelina Brut Reserve Blanc de Blanc, Yuandian’s skin-contact Amphora Riesling and Swiss winemaker Yves Roduit’s Canticle to the Land (Yunnan), which is matured in traditional Yunnanese clay pots.