For centuries, Bordeaux has assumed a mythical status in the world of fine wine as a leitmotif of wealth, power and influence, but its prosperity has always been linked to the capricious nature of markets and the shifting fortunes of global economies. Now change is coming to Bordeaux, with traditional customers like the US and the UK falling away, as China’s new rich push prices to stratospheric levels. The demand is unprecedented, but the product is finite and this new client wants it all. Will the China market be the bubble that never bursts or the biggest threat yet to Bordeaux’s centuries old reputation?
In 2011, one of France’s most precious heritage took a serious hit. Those of you who think French wines are incomparably better than most, you might want to temporarily set aside your loyal beliefs. It was during a blind tasting event in Beijing that notorious Bordeaux Grands Crus were soundly defeated by Chinese wines. According to Antoine Gerbelle from the Revue des Vins de France, the Chinese improved their winemaking skills a lot. During this Beijing competition, ten wine experts gave their best grades to Chinese bottles.
BORDEAUX vs. NINGXIA : Advantage Chiana!
The prestigious “Bordelais” went through a modesty lesson in the country known for its rice alcohol, when ten experts in Chinese and French wines gave their best grades to Chinese bottles during a blind tasting event. This surprising result, testifying to an obvious improvement in the winemaking skills of China, imposed upon a competition nicknamed “Bordeaux vs. Ningxia”, a region of China located in the northwest part of the country and considered to be the most promising for grands crus by specialists.
The judges’ favorite bottle was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Grace Vineyard Chairman’s reserve (Ningxia), followed by Silver Heights The Summit 2009 (Ningxia), JiaBeiLan 2009 (Ningxia), Deep Blue Grace Vineyard 2009 (Ningxia), and lastly, Lafite Saga 2009 (Médoc).
Other wines who did not make the final list are a Saint-Emilion Kressmann 2008, a Medoc Calvet réserve de l’Estey 2009, a Bordeaux Cordier 2008 and a Médoc Mouton Cadet 2009.
This race to perfection isn’t just a fluke. A new documentary film Red Obsession by Warwick Ross & David Roach premiered in the Berlin Film Festival on February 14th 2013. The film, narrated by Russell Crowe and featuring major players in the wine world brings new insight into the extraordinary consequences of China taking the Wine market by storm – as consumers, buyers AND producers. The filmmakers take us on an inside journey from the most renowned ‘Châteaux’ of the Bordeaux region to Hong Kong, Beijing and the Chinese countryside, exploring the connection between the best wines in the world and the economic upheavals affecting both East and West. Red Obsession looks like a fascinating film. While we couldn’t embed the whole film here, I have found some preview clips on YouTube, as well as the official trailer… just enough to awaken your ravenous appetite for wine. The documentary premiered in the U.S. at the New York’s TriBeCa Film Festival on April 20th. For those of you who live on the West Coast, your first opportunity to see the film will be at the Seattle Film Festival commencing May 16, but the wider theatrical release in the U.S. will be in September.
Does the future belong to the Chinese winemakers?
“People must change their opinions about Chinese wines,” said Fiona Sun, member of the jury, and editor at the Revue des Vins de France. In September 2012, another red wine from Ningxia was already creating quite a sensation in London, by winning one of the most prestigious prizes at the Decanter World Wine Awards. So how does one explain the vigorous progress of this remote and arid location, where most vineyards have been planted as late as the year 2000? Frankie Zhao, one of the five Chinese members of the jury has no doubt in his mind that Chinese wines will be extremely popular and successful in the global market, with a production wildly focused on red, the predominant color of the Chinese flag.
There are a lot of shared opinions about the growing popularity of Chinese wine, but all tend to conclude towards a global success. Buy yourself a bottle of wine from China, get a taste of it and tell us what you think.
Until then… Gānbēi!
Red Obsession – Official Trailer
Red Obsession – Clip 1
Red Obsession – Clip 2