The Dark Horse of the Wine World...
Cosy Friday nights in are becoming a ritual. A few Fridays ago, I was joined by a fantastic wine...
I first came across this bottle at a catering event, back when entertaining to the masses was a normal weekend occurrence. This wine was part of a line up of six, chosen specially by the client. I would not normally choose a Chinese wine because it’s not been on my radar. However, I have to say I was blown away.
After six months, I was still thinking about this dark horse (pardon the pun). I considered whether this is one of these things you remember being better than it was... this was not the case.
After purchasing online from VINVM for £34.95, I savoured the bottle for the perfect companion, Beef Bourbingnon. The rich beef along with this wine, would make anyones Friday night!
Chinese wine is a bit of an ongoing debate in the wine world, some wine buffs do not enjoy it, some swear by it, and some stay out of the conversation all together. The recent wine wars between Australia and China, with China raising tax tariffs on Australian wine also hasn't helped the cause. As a result many are trying to boycott the Chinese wine market... I'm not getting involved in politics.
China is becoming a more prominent producer of red wine particuarly Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine in China rose in popularity due to the middle class seeing it as a way of expressing wealth and opulence usually through gift giving, a cultural tradition. Slowly this wine craze is leading to the wines of the west becoming favourites among Chinese citizens. Due to demand, Beijing and Shanghai are now larger and more popular wine exporting hubs than London and New York. China is considered the fifth most important destination of wine exports.
Typically, the Bordeaux Region is the hot favourite, specifically wines under the golden arch of the '1855 classification' of the Medoc area (the super strict classification system which only 61 chateaux's are merited) . Due to its rich opulant history, luxury status and potential for gift giving, Bordeaux wines slowly emerged into the Chinese market.
The first glimpses of this market emersion was seen in the early 1980's after a Chinese owned trading company supplied 5-star hotels in China with 'Pomerol Petrus', the most collectable wine of the Right Bank.
Right Bank = The Right side of the river Dordogne, famous for Merlot and Cabernet Franc blends and smaller properties.
Left Bank = The left side of the river Dordogne, famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and larger estates.
After this, the owner of 'Chateau Lunch Bages' (one of the 1855 classified estates), Jean Michel Cazes made partnership with Cathay Pacific Airlines, selling 20,000 cases to the airline to be given to First Class customers, further emerging Bordeaux wines into the upperclass Chinese market.
Now the importance of the Chinese market can be seen through 'Chateau Mouton Rothschild,' one of the most important Chateaux's on the Left bank, choice to incorporate Chinese artwork onto their label.
Every year 'Chateau Mouton Rothschild' release a new label that has been designed by a famous artist, past labels have been created by Picasso, Dali, Andy Warhol and even Prince Charles. 2018 saw the Chinese artist Xu Bing design the label.
This wine, Pretty Pony is made with the same grapes as a Left Bank Bordeaux blend. Cabernet Sauvignon 90% and Merlot 10%. China's grape growing history is recent, the late 19th century saw the first indications of a potential market, yet vineyards did not fully develop until the 20th Century. Between 2006 and 2016 vineyard growth doubled.
China’s vast size sees a range in climates. Nearly all growing regions in China have a continental climate, however extreme weather is reoccurring problem. Grape growing in China faces freezing winters with the risk of vine fatality annually, costing production and labour. Coastal areas suffer from monsoon rains in the summers affecting growth and grape production. Due to the vast size of the country, no two regions are the same. Each have there own problems and vulnerabilities.
This wine comes from Ningxia, an inland continental region which suffers from monsoon rains, yet also drought. Desert winds bring dry winds to the vineyard. The best area is in the Helan Mountains where the mountain range protect the vineyards from some of these winds. The Yellow River flows through the region and is used for irrigation. Ningxia is considered to be one of Chinas most important grape growing areas with many small producers, including Kanaan making Bordeaux Blends. The importance and potential of this area has been noted by large wine companies such as LVMH and Pernod Ricard who were amongst the first to purchase land here.
This wine is delightful with a deep ruby red colour, a pronounced rich nose that you can smell across the room, wafting cocoa, stewed black fruit, blackberries, brambles, plumb and cherry along with some subtle redcurrant undertones, mingled with sweet cinnamon and cedar. The rich scent from this wine lures you into the glass.
This full bodied dry wine has a medium+ acidity, smooth tannins and long lingering finish reiterating the cooked fruit character coating your mouth with the rich chocolatey goodness. This is an outstanding wine, voted as one of Decanters 12 must try Chinese wines of 2020.
This wine is absolutely a must try and perfect for a cosy Friday night in.