We read a lot about the Chinese obsession with expensive Bordeaux, but the China Wine Awards are focused on the more affordable and diverse end of the market. The judges are major importers, distributors and wholesalers of wine, restaurateurs and sommeliers. Who might be expected to understand what ordinary Chinese people (i.e. not billionaires) are looking for. The results are an education about what’s happening in wine consumption in China. This was the biggest blind wine tasting ever held in Greater China, with 1,150 samples submitted for tasting from more than 25 countries: the five with the most entries were Spain with 202, Australia 185, Italy 158, Chile 133 and France 115. Of the total, 43L wines were awarded a commendation, bronze, silver, gold or double-gold medal. The double-gold were re-tasted to choose the best wine from each country, and Spain scored 83 awards, with Italy and Australia joint second with 64. As an ’emergent’ wine-drinking country, perhaps there are lessons to be learned over here regarding what ticks the boxes for the ‘entry-Level’ section of the wine list.
The trophy winners are mainly from less well-known wine-producing regions, which indicates that the judges were looking for value as well as quality. It also implies that the growing interest in wine in China is not slavishly tied to the first growths of Bordeaux, but seems to have a predilection for the wines of the Mediterranean, Australia and Chile.
Although wines from the UK were conspicuous by their absence from the medals, one British connection is that the winner of the Spanish trophy, Don Ferranti, is made by his wife Jacqui run the St Mary’s Hotel, Golf and Country Club in Pencoed in the Vale of Glamorgan, and the restaurant features a dedicated tasting room. They make the wine in Terra Atta (Catatonia) from Garnacha, Tempranillo and Shiraz. Terra Atta is next-door to Priorat and Montsant, which make some of the most outstanding (and expensive) new-wave wines of Spain, and Gwyn’s ambition is to match them for quality, but not price. The wine won a bronze medal in the 2011 DECANTER World Wine Awards. Don Ferranti white wines from 2009 and 2010 also won silver and bronze medals.
The other joint highest winner was Rampa Di Fugnano Gisdle 2005, a Merlot from Tuscany made by Bettina Kurz and Frank Hoefinger, the only German winemakers in San Gimignano, which is famous for the white wine Vernaccia. They make organic Vernaccia, Sangiovese and Viognier as well as the Merlot, and export to half a dozen countries but this is their first venture into China. The wines have won medals in Europe – this particular vintage of Gisele took a silver medal at the DECANTER World Wine Awards in 2010, and the 2007 vintage was commended in the 2O1l Awards.
Kelly England, president of the Awards, said: “The China Wine Awards is the only major international wine competition judged specificity for the China market and is entirely focused on Chinese consumer preferences. The judges are carefully selected from professional wine buyers based in China who together purchased in excess of five million bottles of wine this year. These judges truly know what Chinese consumers want and are totally up to date with the current trends and demands in the various regions.