When you order wine in China, be specific. You may get a glass of high alcohol distilled liquor, such as rice wine, rather than fermented noble grapes. But never fear it is possible to get a decent glass of Chinese red wine. Modern wine production has been going on in China for more than 100 years, but I took an incursion from the French in 1980 when Rémy Martin set up a joint venture for wine production to flourish. And flourish it has. Chinese grape wine sales revenues were approximately $2.8 billion in 2008, a growth of 20 percent over 2007. Domestic consumption has grown rapidly in the past decade and it is now the fastest growing wine market in the world.
There are now hundreds of vineyards producing wine, including Grace Vineyards, which I reviewed in September 2010. This month I went back and tried Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon. China Great Wall Wine Company, a subsidiary of COFCO Wines & Spirits Co. Ltd., is one of the top three largest wine producers in China along with Changyu Pioneer and Dynasty, and is the largest exporter. It was established in 1983 and has vineyards in the Shacheng region of China. In addition to making distilled spirits and off-dry wines, the company makes red and white table wine using state of the art wine producing equipment imported from France, Germany and Italy. Great Wall wines have gained notoriety in China and it has been named the official wine products of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and is the provider of the only designated wines for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.
|Look||Here is the first clue that this Cabernet is not going to beat premium wines from established wine regions in blind tastings. It looks more like a Pinot Noir than a Cabernet. It is bright, translucent garnet rather than inky, midnight eggplant.|
|Smell||Great Wall has a timid nose. I had to snort deeply to get a whiff of boysenberry, plum, hickory smoke and bacon.|
|Taste||It has gentle fruit musings of strawberry and cherry overlaying saline red meat on the mid pallet and then finishes quickly with charcoal and light tannins. Its light bodied and mellow: much less robust than a California Cabernet or a Cab driven Bordeaux.|
Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t readily available in the U.S. I wasn’t able to find it for sale on any of the large online retailers like Wine.com or Snooth.com. It’s certainly not worth the price of a plane ticket to go and taste it in China. But, if you find yourself in China, give it a try to get a baseline measure of where Chinese wine is today. Great Wall Cab is reasonably pleasant and drinkable. Chinese wine producers have a way to go to catch up with the established wine industry, but I don’t doubt they will. Try it again in five years and let me know if I’m right.