We all know China is drinking more Australian wine, but we recently paused to consider the question in reverse… “would we drink more Chinese wine if it was available?” At the recent WCA “China 360” wine event, hosted at the Handpicked Wines Cellar Door in Sydney, we took up the challenge and tasted 3 pairs of like-quality Chinese and Australian wines and took a vote to see which wines people preferred. The results were truly surprising.
To set the scene for the evening two speakers provided an in depth insight into Chinese wine and culture. Shanghai based Master of Wine, Rob Geddes, shared his findings on the wine industry in China. He presented an engaging overview of the key regions, which varieties are performing the best, and regions to watch. Jeffrey Tan, General Manager of Handpicked Wines, spoke about the challenges of engaging with Chinese dining and drinking culture, establishing branding consistency, and the importance of creating strong personal relationships for business success.
Attendees were then invited to put on their judging hats and assess the 3 pairs of wine (served masked) and choose their favourites. Which wine would they prefer to take home? When the vote was taken the room was equally divided on every single wine pair – 50% of tasters preferred the Chinese offering in each pair. This tasting confirmed that winemakers in China are continuing to lift the stakes in terms of quality in the glass – the faulty, tainted experiments of years gone by are being steadily replaced by well made, clean, balanced, varietal expressions.
The star of the night was undoubtedly the super premium ‘Ao Yun’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc 2014, produced by Moet Hennessy in the Shandong region of Yunnan Province. Dark and glossy, with trademark soft but persistent tannins, this is a genuinely premium wine that China should rightly be proud of. The other favourite in the room was the Niya ‘Manas’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from Xinjian region – a slightly wild, rustic style of Cabernet, well balanced, with fresh acidity, raspberry/blackberry fruit and satisfyingly gravelly tannins.
The evening was concluded with a presentation and tasting of the quintessential luxury Chinese spirit, Kweichow Moutai Baijiu, by Marketing Manager Imogen Hayes. Moutai is a ‘baijiu’ is the number one selling spirit in the world.
The wines served on the night were:
Niya ‘Manas’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($45 approx)
NiYa Wines, Xinjiang Region, Manas subregion.
Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($25 RRP)
Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Helan Mountain Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($40 approx)
Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Ningxia Province
St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($50 RRP)
Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Coonawarra, South Australia.
‘Ao Yun’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc 2014
Moet Hennessy Winemakers, Shandong Region, Yunnan Province.
Taylors Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Taylors Winemakers, Clare Valley, South Australia.
Huge thanks to our generous sponsors who made this tasting possible:
Moet Hennessy Australia, Taylors Wines, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Handpicked Wines, and Rob Geddes MW.