I have finally found the time to taste 11 authentic Chinese wines. The tasting did not start particularly well, with two chardonnays from a winery named 1421 (a convoluted historical link back to AD1421 is provided on the back label). Both wines are from 2010, the first Admiral’s Reserve, the second Silver Series. The cork in the second bottle broke my Screwpull, fracturing the main assembly in a futile attempt to remove the cork. Finally, a conventional corkscrew did the job, probably benefitting from the earlier attempts to prise it loose. Neither of these two wines is up to Australian standards, the first with very unusual pastille fruit flavours and aftertaste, the second with better varietal expression, but a hard, abrupt finish. The wines are imported by Assagio Imports.
Two wines made at the Hansen winery have been imported by Douglas Lamb. The label of the first wine is extraordinary: ‘Cotes du Fleuve Jaune du Desert de Gobi’. The mix of French-accented naming with the Gobi Desert takes some stretch of imagination. This is taken to another level on the back label, where we find that the winery vineyard is at the crossroad between the Kubuqi and Wulanbuhe Deserts, the Gobi presumably nearby. It is a blend of cabernet gernischt, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, which spent 12 months in oak. And if you go to Jancis Robinson’s ultimate book, Wine Grapes, you find that cabernet gernischt is in fact a synonym for carmenere. These eccentricities to one side, the wine has been competently made, with red fruits and a light- to medium-bodied palate dominated by oak, this coming from 12 months in barrel. At $48 it is fully priced, but it’s not without interest. A 2011 Hansen Wuhai Valley Cabernet Gernischt is half the price, and a better wine. It has good colour, with firm black and red berry fruits, balanced tannins, and little or no oak influence. 88 and 89 points respectively.
The stars of the tasting were six wines from Grace Vineyard, one of the best in China. I have tasted its wines several times over the past 10 years. Ken Murchison, owner and winemaker at Portree in the Macedon Ranges, is the winemaker at Grace Vineyard, and was able to procure bottles for the tasting. They are not yet available in Australia, and the demand may mean that it will be some time before they do become available. A blog on Grace Vineyards itself will appear soon. Here the tasting notes are worth providing in full, and the are as follows:
2010 Grace Vineyard Chardonnay
Good colour, bright, not too developed; shows precisely why Grace is highly regarded, and confirms earlier tastings in China; fresh nectarine/white peach flavours; good balance and length.
91 points; drink to 2014; 12.5% alc; cork
2010 Grace Vineyard Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay
Light to medium green-gold; while higher alcohol, more clearly defined, and has impeccable length thanks in part to citrussy acidity. Single vineyard origin; high quality wine.
93 points; drink to 2014; 13% alc; cork
2009 Grace Vineyard Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay
Less colour development than ’10; full-flavoured; clear varietal expression, but less certain mouthfeel and line, particularly on the finish.
89 points; drink to 2014; 13% alc; cork
2010 Grace Vineyard Deep Blue
Bright, clear crimson-purple; a 74/21/5% blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc; while only light- to medium-bodied, has very clear varietal expression with its mix of red and black currant fruit; the tannins are fine, the only small issue being the amount of new oak.
92 points; drink to 2017; 13% alc; cork
2010 Grace Vineyard Sonata Series Cabernet Sauvignon Marselan Cabernet Franc
A cabernet-dominant wine which spent up to 16 months in 80% new French oak; the colour is excellent, and the wine has considerable depth to its medium- to full-bodied palate; both oak and tannins are obvious, resulting in a somewhat chewy mouthfeel.
90 points; drink to 2018; 13.5% alc; cork
2008 Grace Vineyard Deep Blue
A 48/40/12% blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc; the colour is somewhat developed, and doesn’t have the clarity of the other two Grace red wines; here, too, the oak level dominates the fruit. Certainly respectable, oak the only issue.
88 points; drink to 2015; 13% alc; cork