Two weeks ago, I tasted over 30 different Rieslings, all available in China for less than 300 RMB, and all distributed by online distributor Yesmywine
. There were wines from Germany, Australia, France, New-Zealand and the US. Dry, off-dry, medium-sweet, sweet… there even was a Rose (thanks the 75/100 principle)! It is rare to have the opportunity to taste so many different low to medium-priced Rieslings at once, and I thought it might be interesting to recommend a few ones I particularly enjoyed.
Pikes “Traditionale” 2012, Clare Valley, Australia
The colour is really pale, almost water-like. On the nose, the wine reveals crystal clean, pronounced youthful aromas of fresh citrus fruits (lime, lemon) and wet stones-like minerals. On the palate, the wine’s razor-sharp acidity is enhanced by a light fizzyness. The body is medium with intense lime, lemon, green apple flavours ending on a clean long mineral length. This is a great example of high quality Australian Riesling, rather complex and very refreshing. It is young and some people might enjoy its fresh vivacity, however I'd wait 3 to 4 years for the acidity to mellow and for tertiary aromas to start appearing. This is a very good wine! ★★★★
Imported by EMW
Retail price: 258 RMB
Available on Yesmywine here Dr. Burklin Wolf, Trocken Riesling 2011, Pfalz, Germany
The wine shows a medium intensity lemon colour. The nose reveals medium intensity aromas of citrus fruits (lemon,grapefruit), apple, minerals (flint). Very elegant. In the mouth, the wine is
dry with a sharp acidity, medium-bodied with ripe citrus fruits aromas. Very refreshing. Long clean length. This is a young wine which can be drunk now but which will develop complex aromas within the next 4 to 5 years. A good example of German dry Riesling. Elegant and complex. Very good! ★★★★
Imported by Globus Wine
Retail price: 239 RMB
Available at Yesmywine here Rudolf Muller, Spatlese 2011, Mosel, Germany
Medium (-) lemon colour. On the nose, the wine displays medium (-) intensity aromas of apple, pear, jasmine and young peach. On the palate, it is medium-sweet balanced by a refreshing acidity. The alcohol is low, the body light with elegant ripe green and citrus fruits aromas, finishing on a short clean length. This is a very elegant wine showing a zesty acidity perfectly balanced by fruity aromas. Even though the wine isn't very complex, it is clean and typical in style from the Mosel region. Can be used for wine classes! To drink within the next five years. Good! ★★★
I haven't noted the name of the importer. If you know, please leave a comment!
Retail price: 220 RMB
Available on Yesmywine here
When my friend told me that he wanted me to try a premium Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon which grapes used to be sold to Almaviva, I was expecting something very powerful with jammy flavours and full-body, but what I tried was something completely different: very elegant, even feminine with medium (+) intensity aromas of flowers, black chocolate and mint (kind of “After Eight”), fresh blackberry, plum, sandal wood and some light smoke. On the palate the wine shows a surprisingly refreshing acidity with medium body, very well integrated high tannins, finishing on a mineral finish. Great balance. Even though I don't think the wine showed an extraordinary complexity, it however has something even more important: drinkability! This is the kind of wine you want to pour a second and even a third glass. Very well balanced and elegant. This is a very surprising wine! I definitely would buy some bottles if it wasn’t this expensive... Drink now to 2020. Very good! ★★★★
The Alliance des Crus Bourgeois
has just released its 2011 vintage official selection. 256 Chateaux will be allowed to mention "Cru Bourgeois" on the label of their 2011 vintage bottles.
According to the press release, this selection covers:
- 4,400 hectares of vines in some of the Bordeaux region's most prestigious AOCs: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe
- 28 million bottles to be marketed in France and abroad
- Approximately 30% of the Médoc's production
You can download the full list below:
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|File Type: || pdf|
Last month, I ran a little poll on my Weibo account asking Chinese followers what was their favourite wine rating scale. I listed 5 choices: 100 points, 20 points, 10 points, 5 points and no point is better. 183 people, mostly wine professionals, answered the question and, unsurprisingly, the 100 points system arrived first making up 45,4% of the total answers. It is important to remind readers that the notation system at school in China is also based on a 100 points basis, with 60 points being the pass mark. What surprised me is that a bit more than 1/4 of respondents chose the 20 points system which isn’t very widely seen in China. Is it the influence of European wine media or maybe the influence of young professionals who studied in France? 12,6% chose the 10 points system, 7,7% the 5 points system (my choice) and 8,2% ticked the “No point is better” box.
Weibo poll results
First time in Rhone, first visit: Domaine Jamet! Not bad for a start… We were welcomed by Jean-Paul Jamet’s wife
Corinne in their winery above Ampuis in the Cote-Rotie appellation.
Jean-Paul joined his father in 1976 while he was still a high-school student. Back then, the estate only owned 1 hectare of vines among other fruit crops, and the grape they produced from these were sold to negociants. Jean-Paul was very enthusiastic about wine, and one of his conditions to leave school at age 17 was to bottle the fermented juice they could produce from the few vines they had. In 1981, the family started to buy-in vineyards and soon their vineyard ownership rose to 17 hectares. Jean-Paul’s brother Jean-Luc joined the winery in 1986 to take care of the vineyard work and Corinne arrived two years later. In 2011, Jean-Luc left the estate to focus on his 5 hectares of vines, leaving 12 hectares to Jean-Paul, Corinne and their three sons. Of these 12 hectares, about half are located in the Cote-Rotie appellation and the others (even though sometimes juxtaposing Cote-Rotie) are classified as Cotes-du-Rhone or Vin de Pays (Indication Geographique Protegee). About 40,000 bottles are produced in total, 65% sold to restaurants, wine shops and wine lovers in France and the other 35% are eported to 25 countries (with a mere 6 cases to China).
The first wine we tried was the white Cotes-du-Rhone 2011 made up of 60% Marsanne, 30% Viognier and 10% Roussanne. “Jean-Paul’s aim with this wine is to make a fresh white wine easy to enjoy, just the way he likes them” explained Corinne. Indeed, the young pineapple and the ripe citrus fruits aromas together with the mineral, refreshing acidity, conferred this wine a feeling of well being and elegant simplicity. 3,000 bottles were produced.
We then started the red wines tasting with two wines from the barrels: the 2012 and the 2011 Cote-Roties (the Domaine’s flagship wine). The 2012 was very floral on the nose with intense stemmy aromas and flavours. I hope this slight greenness will resorb along the ageing which is supposed to continue until November 2014 or more likely thanks to the final blending.
The 2011, which has already spent about 18 months in barrels was, as one could imagine, more balanced, with aromas of smoke, black pepper, violet and blueberry pie on the nose and with some grippy tannins in the mouth.
Before tasting the 2010, we first tried the 2011 “Fructus Voluptas”. While the other Cote-Roties are made from whole clusters, the 2500 bottles of this wine are made from fully destemmed grapes and the aim is to please consumers not necessarily ready for the more austere assemblages. The ancestor of this wine used to be called “Elegance” and was a single-plot wine made in 94, 96, 97, 00, 04 and 06. The vines then started to get older and they therefore began to produce more structured wines not ideally fit for the initial purpose. Jean-Paul thus decided to use these vines’ fruits for other wines but to continue to offer a fully-destemmed wine made from different plots selected according to each vintage condition. The first wine under this name was bottled in 2008 and is solely available in France. If someone wants to learn what is “cassis” in a wine, this 2011 Fructus Voluptas is perfect! With its round and velvety texture, it is indeed more “approachable” as Corinne puts it, so is the price: 33,5 Euros against > 50 Euros for the Cote-Rotie.
The Cote-Rotie 2010 was delicious with intense aromas of smoke, graphite, cedar, violet, blackberry and black cherry. Fresh on the palate with a structured medium body, fruity, mineral and with sweet spices and leather flavours finishing on a clean long length. This is a great wine which will be approachable young but still with a huge ageing potential! Considering that it is very difficult to find old vintages of Jamet on the market, I am considering buying a few bottles and to cellar them a decade or so…
Something interesting: Corinne told us that Jamet’s wines tend to close between 6 and 12 years old. So if you like the primary aromas of the Syrah grape, try wines made after 2007. For those looking for more developed, tertiary aromas, open bottles made before 2001!
With Corinne Jamet
"If gold have had a smell, it would have been that of this Blanc Des Millenaires 1995!" This is the first thought that popped into my mind after smelling Charles Heidsieck's top cuvee at their Reims' headquarters. I was not only surprised by the quality of this great "Blanc de Blancs" (a Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes), but also by its ability to bring me back to life after 36 hours without sleep...
We left Nanning on Wednesday evening before arriving 24 hours later at Reims, first stop of a two-weeks-long trip to
East-France wine regions. My first visit was arranged by Ned Goodwin MW who managed to organise us a tasting with Charles Heidsieck's Chef de Cave Thierry Roset. We started the afternoon with a short introduction to the brand's history by International Brand Ambassador Catherine Curie. Although very interesting, the relationship between the Pipper and the Charles Heidsieck family branches appeared like an inextricable knot to the zombie I was.
Catherine then took us to a large tasting room overlooking the 200+ stainless steel vats used for the fermentation of the same number of base wines. These vats surround two huge tanks used for the final blend, each with a capacity of 4000 hectolitres or, in other words, a capacity of about half a million bottles each! In terms of vineyards ownership, the company owns 60 ha of vines, but these only represent about 5% of Pipper Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck needs in grapes... Of course, most of these go into the production of Pipper.
The object of our tasting was the more prestigious Charles Heidsieck, which is considered by many as the "Champagne of the real Champagne lovers". Catherine wasn't keen on telling us the quantities produced (chronic secrecy within the Champagne industry), but I remember reading somewhere that Charles' quantity was approximately 1/10 of Pipper's. Anyway, is small quantity synonym of quality? Not necessarily, especially in Champagne where one's capacity of holding reserve wines (previous vintages wines kept to make non-vintage champagne) is primordial to create more complex and balanced non-vintage blends.
Thierry explained that “if you really want to memorize numbers concerning Charles Heidsieck these should rather be 60, 30 and 10”. "Sixty" is the number of crus (based wines) used to make the blend and also the average percentage of new wine, meaning that 40% are actually "reserve wines" (instead of 10 to 15% in Pipper). This important percentage of reserve wine enables the winemaker to produce a finer-tuned, more complex champagne. "Thirty" is the percentage of each of the three allowed varieties (ok, this should be 33.333) and "ten" stands for the average age of the reserve wines (vs 4 years in Pipper). The Brut Reserve (the "entry-level" champagne in the Charles Heidsieck range) is aged 36 months “sur latte” (in the bottle, on dead yeasts known as “lees” left after the second fermentation) before disgorgement (more than the double of the compulsory time) and the Vintage is aged for a minimum of 8 years (almost 3 times longer than the compulsory 3 years).
We started our tasting with a very pedagogical approach to better understand the importance of blending in Champagne: 9 still base wines made from different grapes, vintages and/or origin.
The first three wines were all from the 2012 vintage, “a very difficult year for the growers but with great grapes for us” said Thierry. There was a Chardonnay from Oger, a Pinot Noir from Ambonnay and a Pinot Meunier from Verneuil. The objective was to feel the difference between the finesse and the floral aspect of the Chardonnay, the structure and the more peachy aromas of the Pinot Noir, and the more apple-scented style of the Pinot Meunier. The Chardonnay showed a great purity, and Thierry confided to us that he will certainly make a 2012 Vintage and even a Blanc des Millenaires (the top cuvee) with it. The second flight was made of a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay from 2004 to show us how the wines evolve after 9 years. Thierry explained that Pinot Meunier doesn’t have ageing ability to keep it as a reserve wine or to use it in vintage champagne (which requires longer ageing and which are aimed for late consumption). Even though the two wines started to show some developed aromas (some toast and candied fruits in the Chardonnay and some ginger bread in the Pinot Noir), both also showed very young aromas and flavours, and Thierry is therefore going to keep them another 3 years or so before making use of them. We continued with a very buttery 1999 Chardonnay from Cramant (at its peak), a 1998 Pinot Noir from Verzy (the oldest Pinot Noir reserve wine at Heidsieck), a very fresh 1998 Chardonnay and another one from 1996 (the oldest Chardonnay in stock), both from Cramant.
Once we acquired a deeper understanding of the role of each grape, origin and vintage, we then started to sip some bubbles, starting with the Charles Heidsieck Reserve Brut. This wine is made from 60% base wine from 2007 and is made up of the three grapes in equal percentage. Although this is the “entry level” wine, 36 months of autolysis ("the complex chemical reactions that take place when a wine spends time in contact with the lees, or dead yeast cells, after fermentation"＊
) granted it with a creamy texture and aromas of hazelnut, toast, praline, apricot and sweet spices.
“We us more new wine in our rose to keep it fresher and more gourmand” explained Thierry Roset after stating that the Charles Heidsieck Rose contains 80% of wine from 2007, “and the colour comes from about 6% of Pinot Noir we make using red wine winemaking techniques.” The copper-coloured champagne showed aromas of fresh red fruits (raspberry, wild strawberry), sweet spices (cinnamon) and vanilla on the nose, with ginger flavours and a lively acidity on the palate.
While the Brut Reserve is made from 60 crus, the Vintage is made from a draconian selection of the 20 best ones. The 2000 Vintage Charles Heidsieck, made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, stayed 12 years on its lees (4 times longer than the minimum time!) before disgorgement last year. Deep gold and with lots of fine bubbles, the wine revealed aromas of hazelnut, roasted chestnut and smoke with a peppery, vinous, powerful mouth-feel. A real “vin-champagne”.
The Blancs des Millenaires 1995 was kept 15 years on the second fermentation dead yeasts. It is made solely from Chardonnay coming from only five crus, the “creme de la creme”. Deep gold with fresh almonds, candied pineapple, roasted hazelnut and quince on the nose. A liquid gold!
If I had to use two words to define the house style, these would be “power” and “depth”.These are Champagnes made for (still) wine drinkers!
Last Sunday evening, Ned Goodwin MW came to Nanning to host a Northern Rhone Master-Class. Between 30 to 40 people took part in this very interesting tasting.
I first gave a short introduction to the North-Rhone and its wines before letting Ned taking everybody on a senses-tour to seven of the main appellations. Each wine was an opportunity to compare vintages, terroirs and winemaking techniques.
We started with a very fruity and intense Francois Villard “Les Terrasses du Palat” 2011 compared with a more developed, marzipan-scented Chateau Grillet 2009. The two wines showed a great structure, with Grillet being a little bit more “skinsy” as Ned put it. Ned explained that in hot vintages like 2009, the grapes grow a thicker skin in order to protect themselves against dehydration, giving the wine a firmer structure even in white wines. Due to cooler and wetter vintage conditions, the 2008’s Domaine Jamet "Cote-Rotie" didn’t show the fruit intensity the other reds had, especially the 2010 Domaine Combier “Clos des Grives” and Domaine Auguste Clape “Renaissance”. While I still enjoyed the slightly more austere style of the 2008 Jamet, the 2010’s didn’t fail to the vintage’s reputation: intense, fruity, yet with more freshness than in 2009. While 2011 is said to have produced lighter wines than 2009 and 2010, this didn’t show in the full-body, intense Domaine Coursodon «L’Olivaie» 2011.
We then spoke about the influences of schist, granite and clay. Schist is mainly found in Cote-Rotie, especially in the Cote-Brune. This is a poor, brown-coloured soil type which absorbs heat and warms-up the vines’ roots. This soil produces wines with strong tannins and black fruits. The granite, which is much lighter in colour reflects the sunlight, thus encouraging the ripening of the grapes. Wines produced from schist-dominant vineyards such as Domaine Jamet’s Cote-Rotie will be more restrained, while those produced on granite, such as the Domaine Coursodon “l’Olivaie” from Saint-Joseph, will be more fragrant. Ned explained that the vineyards of Domaine Auguste Clape from Cornas have a higher proportion of clay, therefore able to store more water which conducts nutrients to the grapes, producing wines with more body and a firmer structure.
Concerning the winemaking techniques, we compared the more traditional style of Domaine Jamet’s and Auguste Clape’s wines which are made from whole clusters (or partially destemmed) with the others which use totally destemmed grapes. We also compared the difference between the low percentage of new oak used to age Jamet and Coursodon wines (15% to 20%) against the 100% “recent” barrels (yet very well integrated) used for ageing Crozes-Hermitage’s Domaine Combier – Clos des Grives 2010.
Ned also spent some time explaining the very trendy term “drinkability”. He reminded the participants what the quality of a wine is mostly related to characteristics which can be summarized by the acronym B.L.I.C. standing for Balance, Length, Intensity and Complexity. However, a wine’s “drinkability” or, in other words, its ability to stimulate a drinker’s desire for a second glass (or a third), is an aspect which has become essential when assessing a wine’s quality. Even if most of the wines showed a great intensity on both the nose and the palate, they all showed a great drinkability too.
I take this opportunity to sincerely express my gratitude to Jerome Coursodon, Francois Villard, Laurent Combier, Gwenaele Chesnais from Paul Jaboulet and Simon Zhou from fine wines importer Ruby Red for their support! Many thanks also to the Shiny Club for kindly providing the venue.
This was a great night, with great wines and great people! This is the first Master-Class organized by my new training company Zhulian Wines, but definitely not the last!!
Here is the full list of the wines we had:
1-Francois Villard « Terrasses du Palat » 2011, Condrieu
2-Chateau Grillet 2009, Chateau Grillet
3-Domaine Jamet 2008, Cote-Rotie
4-Domaine Coursodon « L’Olivaie» 2011, Saint joseph
5-Domaine Combier « Clos des Grives » 2010, Crozes-Hermitage
6-Paul Jaboulet Aine « La Chapelle » 2004, Hermitage
7-Domaine Auguste Clape « Renaissance » 2010, Cornas
Here are some pictures of the tasting:
For a Chinese version, please click here
Yesterday eleven Chilean wine producers came to Nanning to show their wines to over 200 local wine professionals and amateurs. This was the fourth stop of a six-cities tour called “The Gifted Land” (the other cities are Hangzhou, Wuhan, Changsha, Chongqing and Xi’an).
The event took place at the Marriot Hotel (the best hotel in Nanning for the moment) and was divided into two parts: a two-hours-long seminar about Chilean wines conducted by Maxime Lu and a wine tasting lasting most of the afternoon.
During the seminar, about forty people tasted ten wines: Cono Sur - Ocio Pinot Noir 2010 (Casablanca), Santa Ines - Reserva Syrah 2011 (Maipo), Canepa - Magnificvm Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Maipo), Santa Rita - Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Maipo), Undurraga - Terroir Hunter (TH) Syrah 2009 (Maipo), Santa Carolina - VSC 2009 (Cachapoal Valley), Vina Ventisquero - Vertice 2008 (Apalta Valley), Vina Chequen - Reserva Rose Syrah (Curico), Carta Vieja - Origen by del Pedegral Family Gran Reserva 2010 (Loncomilla Valley) and Portal del Alto - Terravid Late Harvest (Maule Valley).
My favourite wine was the Santa Carolina - VSC 2009 (made of 60% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 10% Carmenere and 2% Mourvedre). The first glass I got was corked. I asked for a second bottle and, even if we were running a bit late on the schedule, this proved to be the right thing to do as the second bottle was definitely more vibrant! This wine shows a very deep ruby colour. The nose reveals aromas of fresh ripe black fruits, spices and espresso. On the palate it is full-bodied, showing a slightly high alcohol, with tannins structured for ageing. This wine is very young now, and one should wait another 3 years or so before enjoying it at its best. I gave it 90 points.
The second wine I appreciated the most was the Ocio Pinot Noir 2010 of Cono Sur: intense ripe red fruits, very plumy on the nose with strong smoke and vanilla aromas. On the palate the wine is velvety-textured, very soft, full-body with quite high alcohol too, showing ripe cherry and strawberry as well as agreeable sweet spices. 90 points.
The other wines were all between the 87 and 89 bracket, which would mean a strong bronze medal or even a silver medal if shown at Wine 100
! The only which wasn’t my "cup of wine" was the Syrah Rose Reserva of Vina Chequen. I felt that there was a bit of residual sugar in this wine, which made it appear less fresh than what I was expecting. But this is only a matter of taste and I am sure that many people will love it!
It is interesting to see that an increasing number of wine promotional bodies start (at last) to pay more attention to the "second tier" cities such as Nanning. I hope this is just a beginning!
Last week, I took part in a wine challenge called Wine 100
as jury member. I worked as a consultant for the first edition
of this wonderful challenge last year, and as I was in charge of the organization during the event, I could only frustratingly watch everybody sipping all day long while I was busy making sure the wines were poured in the right order. This time, to my greatest pleasure, I could sit with everybody and assess the quality of the entries.
I’ve judged in several wine challenges in China, and this one is my favorite so far. First of all, the organizing team is made up of young, very dynamic people who really enjoy wine and looking forward to promote wine culture in China. I’ve took part in challenges which were definitely much more profit-oriented. Secondly, the jury was made up of
very knowledgeable Masters of Wine (Andrew Caillard, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Jane Skilton and Charles Curtis), great sommeliers (Josselin de Gesincourt, Jean-Marc Nolant) and China’s crème de la crème educators and writers (Mei Hong, Rebecca Leung, Huang Shan, Chris So, Frankie Zhao, Lu Yang, Stephen Li, Martin Hao, Andy Tam…) Then, each of the four judge panels had only to taste between 60 and 70 wines per day, which gave us more than enough time to discuss and reasses the controversial wines. Finally, besides the challenge itself, there were Master-Classes every evening (run by the MWs), two forums the day after the challenge (one about online sales and one about wine education) and of course, great discussions between judges during and after diners, always around great bottles (sometimes too much maybe).
As the wines were split between four panels, I didn’t try all the wines. However, I was a bit disappointed by the overall quality of those I had to assess, except for the Spanish tempranillos, especially those from Rioja which all showed very good quality. It is the flight of wines I tasted which received the most gold and silver medals.
This kind of wine challenge is becoming more and more common in China. Even though some of them may lack professionalism regarding the organization, they all contribute to the popularization of wine in China. It is a pity that only a few of them are followed by an active promotion… Indeed, tasting wines and giving away medals isn’t enough! The success and durability of such a challenge depends mainly on the afterwards promotion, which means letting final consumers know about it.
For those living in or around Nanning (not many I guess among the readers of these lines…), I am very excited to inform you that we will run a North-Rhone
Master-Class hosted by Ned Goodwin MW
on May 26th! We are going to taste seven great wines, each of them belonging to the bests of their appellation. They are (from North to South):
1. Domaine Jamet 2008, Cote-Rotie (imported by Ruby Red)
2. Francois Villard « Terrasses du Palat » 2011, Condrieu (no importer in China)
3. Chateau Grillet 2009, Chateau Grillet (imported by Ruby Red)
4. Domaine Coursodon « L’Olivaie» 2011, Saint joseph (no importer in China)
5. Paul Jaboulet Aine « La Chapelle » 2004, Hermitage (imported by Links Concept)
6. Domaine Combier « Clos des Grives » 2010, Crozes-Hermitage (no importer in China)
7. Domaine Auguste Clape « Renaissance » 2010, Cornas (imported by Ruby Red)
This is a unique opportunity to learn more about this great region and to taste world-class wines in Nanning! Only 30 seats! To know more about the tasting and register, click here