The 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards dinner was held last Wednesday with the results of the top awards winners announced on the night. For the first time in its history a Chinese Wine took an International Trophy, the highest award level, in the Red Bordeaux Varietal Over £10 class.
I’ve travelled to China a few times now and have barely scratched the surface of its domestic wines which were, up until a few years ago at least, regarded as a low quality, high volume offerings. Truth be told some of what I did drink over there remains so, however, slowly but surely, an ethos of quality over quantity is spreading amongst a small number of Chinese wine producers which hopefully will continue after this week’s news.
Of course I haven’t been to Ningxia province where the award winner (the Jia Bei Lan 2009 Cabernet blend) was made – and it is not available in the UK – but I did manage to go to Château Bolongbao outside Beijing nearly a year ago, which I wrote about on Reign of Terroir in my Fabrique en Chine post last December. Here I picked up a bottle of 2004 品丽珠 (Cabernet Franc) for the princely sum of £30 and this weekend seems like the perfect excuse to open it and toast Chinese winemakers!
On first pour the wine looks remarkably clear and pale for a Cabernet Franc, more Pinotesque with a tawny hue giving the appearance of much more age than the 2004 on the label would suggest.
The nose is smoky and sweet, a touch of spice but also some stewed fruit, developing tobacco aspects after a little time in the glass. There’s a little vegetal aspect hidden away and overall it’s very pleasant (as long as you’re not looking for something fresh and fruity).
The taste is delicate with a port-like flavours, although without the alcohol. There’s a touch of raisin as well, subtle, but definitely there – I wonder if 2004 was a hot year near Beijing? The tannins are light and fine-grained, with some chocolate texture from the mid-palate through into the finish which at first seems short but then you notice a lingering aftertaste, not quite bitter, not quite sweet. There’s just enough acidity to balance the tannins and retain a freshness than means I’m now onto the third glass and heading towards a fourth (good job the abv is only 12.5%!).
The wine is good, 3+ stars, maybe approaching 4. It’s not a £30 wine compared to some that you can get in the UK, but this is something that you can’t get here and I’m not disappointed I bought it – I’m enjoying the flavours and textures plus it has an emotional aspect after coming back with me all those thousands of miles from a small winery a short distance outside of Beijing City.