Wine is made in most countries in the world that can sustain grape vines. Those gnarly creepers are pretty hardy, so there aren’t many places that can’t produce wine. I’ve never seen Chinese wine in the shops in the U.S., but in fact there are about 400 wineries there. The Chinese like their drink as much as anyone, so of course there is a market for fine wine. Some estimates suggest that China is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with the vast majority of it consumed in the country.
I had the opportunity to go to Beijing this week and of course I had to try the local wine. I ordered a couple glasses of 2008 Grace Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany my lunch.
Grace Vineyard is a family-owned winery, based in Shanxi province, south of Beijing. It was started by Chan Chun Keung with the first plantings in 1997 in 168 acre vineyards and the first vintage was 2001. It is now run by Chun Keung’s oldest daughter, Judy Leissner, who studied at the University of Michigan – and I hold that against her. The winery produces Bordeaux style wines which are aided by its location in spirit at least as its situated approximately on the same latitude as Bordeaux. OK, so they don’t speak French to the grapes, the climate is cold in the winter and hot and wet in the summer, and the soil is more loamy, but they at least grow some of the same grapes that are prominent in that famed French region including Cabernet Franc (24%), Merlot (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), oh and also Chardonnay (8%).
Grace bottles nine wines categorized in three quality levels: Flower Series, aka Vineyard Series (Rosé, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon); Bronze Series (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Winemakers Selection – a Bordeaux blend); Gold Series (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot). They produce about 700,000 bottles a year. I tasted the ’08 Vineyard Series Cab, which is made to be drunk young. Hmm, young and drunk. Rings a bell.
|Look||Dark ruby with a tinge of age at the edge like the smoggy midnight sky in Beijing.|
|Smell||A box of raisins left in the sun a lunch box for a few days: warm with aged sweetness.|
|Taste||A front of soft plum, quickly followed by prune on the mid-palette and slipping away in a fast finish with mild insinuations of oak.|
|Price||45.00 RMB/ glass or about $6. Bottles go for about $28 retail.|
Did I buy a few bottles to bring home with me? Nope. Would I drink it again in my next visit to China? Yep.