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The Fine Wines of China

Just stumbled across this July 4 NYT article:


It makes sense, with China's varied terrain and climate, that some interesting varietals may emerge. And let's not forget 1.2 billion thristy mouths.

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  1. first the world cup, now this. the french cannot be happy.
    what's next? problems with airbus?

    chinese wine is an interesting concept. lots of climates, add a glut of really smart UC-Davis graduates. go figure. sure would like to start a modest vineyard on lamma island.

    1. Had a bottle of Great Wall Cabernet when I was in Beijing last year. I don't think the French have much to worry about. Franzia is slightly better, and much cheaper.

      1. Perhaps we need to define the term "fine"...

        1. Spend a ton of time in China , most local chinese mix Great Wall red with Sprite or 7Up. Have had a '92 and it's not bad if it's your 2nd or more bottle

          1. We were just in Beijing and drank a bottle of Dragon Seal (cabernet/gamay) with Peking Duck at Quanjude. Not bad at all! European red wine is very popular in China and Hong Kong, where they drink a lot of Australian wine, and first growth Bordeaux are found at every wine store and duty-free shop you come across. Chinese wineries are hiring European winemakers to help out and the quality is improving. Very inexpensive, too!

            7 Replies
            1. re: kenito799

              If you see first-growth Bordeaux labels in every wine shop, I'd be skeptical about the contents of the bottle. There's a fairly limited supply.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                OK I am no first, second or third-growth Bordeaux drinker but you DO see top Bordeaux that retail for $300-$1000+ a bottle!

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Chinese wouldn't be dishonest about intellectual property rights, or resort to counterfeiting, would they?

                  1. re: Steve K

                    yo, I saw the bottles, they are legit, they wouldn't get away with that in Hong Kong...

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Greater China has been a place to unload off-vintages of cru classe Bordeaux where the label is the most important feature for certain customers. I talked to one Bordeaux negoce earlier this year who has been working the China market and he compared it to Japan 30 years ago. The gift (and re-gifting) market is driving sales at the top end for chateau bottlings.

                    Here's a link to a thread on Grace wines from China with my tasting note on the cabernet -

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      This is easy to believe--very label-conscious society and a boon for French winemakers. Wine is one of the few things they tax heavily in Hong Kong and I was appalled at the prices they have to pay. Even duty-free shops are 25% higher than NYC retail. But it's not all tax, I found a nice Gavi at a price comparable to NYC, likely because no one knows what it is!

                      1. re: kenito799

                        I pulled out my notes, so let me correct my earlier statement, he said China is like Japan was in the _60s_. The market is polarized: first growths and VdPays, nothing in between, and is status and price-driven. Wine shops are developing and international hotels continue to be the main outlets served by four major wholesalers. Wine bars and tastings are becoming popular with the growing middle class. Locally produced wines target the price-driven market. Hong Kong continues to be a sophisticated market and growing with the influx of newly rich Chinese.

                2. Hi everyone.
                  I thought I should give my 2 cents on this subject and dispel some misconceptions.
                  I lived in China for some years and both imported and sold wine at the retail level. I had plenty ops to try domestic wine.

                  1-Chinese wine is on average pretty bad, really.

                  2-There a few wineries though, Grace for instance, that produce some decent wine. They can't beat Australian wines yet on prices however (unless we are talking about Great Wall which taste like the sweat off a dead man's back...you can find it in every AllDays, that's the name of a Shanghainese grocery chain, ha)

                  3-Wine drinking is on the rise, double digit rate but it starts from so low that it is still laughable. More wine was imported in 2003 in Hg Kg than all continental China. Wine imports that year in China were equivalent to what a french city of 160K inhabitants drinks yearly...

                  4-Plenty of first growths in Asia, not only China. They are real, easy to buy since the Bordeaux market is an open market. The question to ask is: what is the history behind that particular bottle? Whre does it come from? If you buy from a reputable shop, you'll be fine. There are reputable importers that have lots of first growths like ASC, DT Asia, Summergate etc imported directly from France and not Taiwan or God knows where...

                  5-Price are high because the Chinese Govt slaps wine imports with almost 50% taxes. Wine in China is a LUXURY!

                  6-Yes it is a status conscious society, more than any I can think of. I often had Chinese men walk into our shops and ask us 'what is the most expensive bottle of wine you have?'

                  7-I met a lot of savy, educated Hg Kg wine lovers. I can't say the same about continental Chinese.

                  8-Continental Chinese wine merchants in general see wine as a commodity, something to buy and sell just like iron ore or pork bellies. Can you trust someone with that kind of mentality? I know i and many others didn't, you need passion to be a wine merchant. Otherwise become a CPA.

                  9-Best wine to drink with Peking duck at Quanjude is champagne. Believe me, I've tried a few times...and they will let you cool your bottle in their chest freezer.

                  10-There is an exception that confirms the rule to all the above. :-)

                  1. Correction: I meant Liqun, not Quanjude. They serve the best duck I've tried in BJ, have the right atmosphere and are fairly pleasant. GOT to call ahead and make a reservation, that will shorten the unavoidable wait in the narrow lobby.
                    Liqun Roast Duck
                    11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Lu
                    north-east of Qianmen
                    Tel: +86 (10) 6705 5578