China’s Wine Future

Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

As provided by ProWein: Specialist Article / June 2018

By Stuart Pigott & Paula Sidore

All photos in this posting: Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

7 June 2018

While certainly few of us missed China’s rise to the position of a major economic power, that newly established prowess continues to fight the biased western preconception of wine and China. On the one hand we have the image of the Chinese wine drinker pouring cola in her Chilean Cabernet or ice cubes in his red Bordeaux, on the other the Chinese market is perceived as a wine utopia where every kind of wine –  the great, the good and the ugly – will be sold in huge quantities one day very soon. These dangerously outdated preconceptions, however, ignore the burgeoning truth: the steadily growing consumption and production of wine in China.

One visible example of these changing attitudes includes the success of Shanghai’s ProWine China. Since 2013, this event has been co-organized by Messe Düsseldorf — responsible for the world’s largest international wine trade fair, ProWein — and UBM World. The next ProWine China will take place from November 13 – 15, 2018, with 700 wine and spirit producers and approximately 15,000 visitors expected to attend.

Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

Year after year, China continues to grow in both numbers and experience as a producer of wine. In fact, few outside China realize that Changyu, based in Yantai in Shandong Province is the third largest wine brand in the world with annual sales of 135 million liters, exactly equal to the Californian E. & J. Gallo brand! Great Wall — owned by state-owned COFCO — is also one of the world’s ten largest wine brands with annual sales of 63 million liters.  Read More

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Château Margaux: 40 years on

Vertical opulence, with Thibault Pontallier: 1978-2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

2 June 2018

Over dinner on 9 May this year, I was lucky to attend a vertical of this magnificent first growth from the Médoc: the highly acclaimed – à juste titre – Château Margaux.

Vintages included the first-ever under the Mentzelopoulos family, the 1978, which showed quite well. We also enjoyed stars like 1983, 1996 and 2010, among others.

The true star was none other than Thibault Pontallier, who had flown to Washington D.C. from Los Angeles that same day for this dinner, which was held in a Baroque style private room at the Spanish restaurant Taberna del Alabardero. I had organized a vertical dinner of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande at this restaurant late last year.

Opulence meets opulence: Private dining at Taberna del Alabardero in Washington D.C.

Thibault had been in Copenhagen, Denmark a few days before: promoting a super brand means traveling. Born in 1986 in Bordeaux, he is the son of Paul Pontallier, who had been making wine for the estate since his first vintage there of 1983.

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Clos Vougeot: 2008 to 1989

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

29 May 2018

The name evokes legends. And the château is a beautiful place, as you can see in the picture I took this past March, for part of a fantastic week of the Grand Jours de Bourgogne. The day was 22 March 2018, and the tasting? A vertical for media only, of vintages from a variety of estates stretching from 2008 to 1989. I also had done a similar tasting back in 2016.

According to Jasper Morris, in his excellent tome Inside Burgundy, it is uncertain when walls first enclosed the Clos Vougeot vineyard, but there is mention of a so called clausum de Vougeot in 1211 and of a grand clos de Cîteaux de Vougeot in 1228.

Within the Clos …

Monks were already making wine apparently since one century before. It was once a single vineyard, but then broke into various ownerships in its nearly 900-year history. A major date was the French Revolution, which led to the disenfranchisement of the religious owners – so typical of that turbulent period in French history. It eventually fell into single ownership until 1889, when it was sold to six owners. By 1920, there were 40 owners. Today, about 80.

So Clos Vougeot is a veritable Burgundy jewel. But with so many owners, a very good example of a wine minefield. When it was a single vineyard, many historians believe that the wine was made from grapes across the slope.

Clearly, its 50 hectares vary in terroir quality and almost everyone agrees that the middle to top slope merits grand cru status, while much of the rest is more like premier cru.

But then how can you explain why some very successful Clos Vougeots are made from vines grown closer to the bottom of the slope?

Winemaking. Indeed, some producers with “inferior” plots can outpace others with “superior” plots. As Jasper Morris experienced a few years earlier, when he tasted over 20 Vougeot wines: “The skill of the winemaker seemed to have much more impact than where the parcel of vines was located.” Read More

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Domaine de Chevalier vertical 2016-2000 (red)

Consistency and excellence

By Panos Kakaviatos for

28 May 2018

For several years now, I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed older vintages of wines both red and white from Domaine de Chevalier, a renowned estate from the Pessac-Léognan appellation of Graves in Bordeaux.

From a vertical of the whites, I helped to organize in Merano, Italy some years ago, to another vertical for both reds and whites at Black Salt in Washington D.C., tasting Domaine de Chevalier is a most positive experience.

And so it was no exception to have enjoyed another vertical – this time blind – of recent reds from this estate, reaching back to 2000 and up to 2016, although the 2001 was missing.

The 2016 was easiest to detect; could it be the best red ever made here? Owner Olivier Bernard prefers his 2010 for that honor, even if at this tasting this venerable Bordeaux vintage came off veritably closed. The other super star of these? 2009! Was it easy to detect the 2013? Not here. How about the 2002? Well, not really … Read More

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#Bdx17: Best of the red rest

Right Bank Satellites

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 May 2018

2017 makes the adage of seeking a “petit château” in a great vintage (and vice versa) less clear-cut. Certainly top terroirs excelled – on a general basis – so you can (more often that not) find happiness from the “grands châteaux” in 2017 – if the price is right.  By the way, too often so far, the price has notbeen right, what with the wide availability of vintages like 2015 in bottle and at comparable prices, not to mention 2014s that can be just as good as the 2017s.

To get your money’s worth, this time “grand château” also means estates from lesser known appellations, whose terroirs suffered little or no frost damage, while having enough warmth and properly draining soils to ripen grapes in the somewhat sunless summer – and to withstand more effectively September rains.

So, you could actually find “petits châteaux” from fine terroirs that may be more interesting than even some classified growths that were hit more by the frost.

This section thus takes a closer look at this fascinating aspect of 2017, and two examples come to mind: Château de la Rivière in Fronsac, unaffected by frost, made very fine wine in 2017.  We have already seen how an estate like Château de Lamarque in Haut-Médoc made wine that outclasses some classified growths: its proximity to the river meant riper grapes and less frost challenges, and riper Cabernets than some others. Neither of these wines will dent your wallet.

Many of these “smaller” success stories come from the members of the Grand Cercle, which includes wines that in warm to hot vintages make over bold, high alcohol and sometimes too oak-ridden wine. Given the nature of the vintage, which was not amenable to such large scale styles, some special cuvées from the Grand Cercle which I tend to find overblown actually excel in 2017 – and would be worth purchasing should the promise of the barrel samples be fulfilled in bottle. In terms of appellations, yet again Fronsac proves its mettle and for that reason I highlight it in the main photo for this post. Read More

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