China’s Wines Gaining Recognition

The Decanter World Wine Awards is a prestigious annual event that celebrates and rewards the best wines from around the world. With many thousands of entries, this is the world’s largest international wine competition. The wines are judged by experts from 25 different countries, including one-fifth of the world’s “Masters of Wine”.

At the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards in London, Chinese wineries increased their medal haul yet again, receiving 18 accolades in total: five commendations, 10 bronze medals, two silvers and one gold. The Chinese home market is the fifth largest wine-consumer, but much of that consumed is cheap domestic plonk at the low end and French Bordeaux and Burgundy at the high end. However significant strides are being made by Chinese winemakers in their efforts to improve their products and target the potentially lucrative mid-range.

Though these efforts often go unnoticed and unsung internationally, a string of successes by domestic Chinese wineries indicate that China’s burgeoning premium wine market has the potential to become a greater domestic, if not regional, force. Last year, the Ningxia-based winery Helan Qing Xue’s Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 won China’s first-ever “International Trophy” at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

China’s single gold medal was won by Chateau Reifeng-Auzias in Shandong province for its Cabernet 2010 (which also took a silver medal for its 2010 Syrah). A little-known name compared to more established Chinese premium wineries like Grace or Silver Heights, Reifeng-Auzias is a joint venture between Domaine Auzias in Cabardès in the south of France and wine lovers (and oil-business execs) Wu Feng and his wife Mei Ling.

Last year, Chinese wines won 11 medals, with the Jia Bei Lan 2009 from He Lan Qing Xue in Ningxia province in northern China winning the Red Bordeaux Varietal Over £10 International Trophy. White WineNingxia, in northwest China, is regarded as one of the country’s most promising wine regions, along with Shandong province, China’s major winemaking region. Every Chinese wine included in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards originated from Inner Mongolia, Hebei province, Shandong province or Shanxi province. The majority of winning wines were Cabernet blends, but the list also included a Reserve Traminer 2010 from Château Sun God – part of Great Wall – in Hebei, Domaine Helan Mountain’s Reserve Pinot and Reserve Merlot, a Chardonnay, and the white grape Dragon Eye, both also from Great Wall. Overall, accolades were distributed fairly evenly to independent wineries and much larger state-owned plots; the respected Shanxi-based winery Grace Vineyard took home five medals, as did China’s largest wine company, Great Wall.

Reflecting on this year’s results, Decanter publishing director Sarah Kemp said China’s continuing success at the 2012 Decanter World Wine Awards ”yet again confirms that it is a country to watch,” adding, “We are just beginning to see a glimpse of its potential.”

International Trophies will be announced at the Decanter World Wine Awards presentation dinner at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, in July.


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