In my China Daily wine column (number 54) I pose the question of value for money with wine, and suggest China is not yet there. For publication 26 November 2011.
Earlier this year a single bottle of red wine from Chateau Junding in Shandong province sold for 27,998 RMB. Many of my friends believe it difficult to justify spending that much on one bottle. This introduces the concept of value for money when we buy wine.
Vineyards occasionally provide the wines mentioned in this column, and when they do I mention this fact. But much of the time I pay for the wines I write about, or attend tasting where I pay a fee to sample a range of wines. Given financial limits, this leads me to consider value-for-money wines.
One of the best red wines available in China in terms of price is the 2008 Sangre de Toro made by Torres (blood of the bull would be the English translation). It is available at major outlets in China for about 150 RMB. This wine is almost black and the density of the colour reflects the intensity of the fruit.
The wine offers the sensation of drinking ripe mulberries. This is meant as a positive statement. Chinese people will know that at certain times of the year mulberries are dark, sweet and luscious. It’s the same with this wine.
This red had a subtle nose that took a while to emerge. It hinted at a range of berry fruits. The wine is not overwhelmed with oak. It is like an encounter with a shy person who once encouraged displays a sauciness that is most engaging. Perhaps it’s a bit like the early stages of a relationship where neither party knows where the pairing will go. I would drink this wine with a hearty lamb dish from the western provinces of China.
The Torres feels big in the mouth though the alcohol level is moderate, at 12 per cent. I have issues with the fact the wine has a cork closure, instead of the more reliable stelvin or screw cap. But the cork is good quality and assuming reasonable storage conditions this wine should be good drinking for a couple more years.
Torres is Spain’s largest family-owned wine producer. Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine says the Torres family owns almost 1,000 hectares of vineyards in Spain, Chile and California. Torres’ wines are distributed in China via the Everwines brand. Everwines says by the end of 2013 it intends to have 62 retail outlets in China.
To date I have not enjoyed my encounters with Chinese wine. Perhaps I have not been in the country long enough. So it was an interesting experience to meet a Chateau Chungyu Castel red. Sadly the encounter was frustrating – yet another Chinese wine that had minimal flavour, and also did not have a vintage date. Why do so many winemakers in this country not produce wines labeled with vintage years?
The wine came in a magnificent wooden box, along with a glossy brochure in English and Chinese. The type was so small it required a magnifying glass to be read. The wine was drinkable but little more can be said than that. The colour was acceptable and the wine had good clarity. Its aroma suggested a blend of Bordeaux grape varieties. The label did not offer any explanation.
Sadly, the wine’s flavour fell away quickly and the aromas of savoury thyme and rhubarb did not linger very long. In all this was an acceptable wine. But it pales when compared with the formidable Torres described earlier.
* “Popping the cork on the question of value from the vineyard” in China Daily, 26 November 2011, page 12. Find a link here.