IT’S all about China this weekend. There’ll be dragon and lion dances, Year of the Dog celebrations, banquets, yum cha, and dumplings all over the place, and all the usual hand-wringing about what drinks go best with Chinese food.
Our wine industry leaders will answer that with an ever hopeful and self-congratulatory “Australian wine” of course, given that China is now our biggest export market in value terms, making up a third of all Australia’s exports in dollar terms.
That adds up to $848 million into mainland China and, if you add Hong Kong to that, clock up an extra $118m, the vast majority of that being red wine. The industry data doesn’t break down that market’s varietal preferences, but globally the top five order of popularity was shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz/cabernet blends, chardonnay and merlot.
The flip side of this is a very different story. I’ve had the displeasure of tasting just a few imported Chinese-made wines over the years, and not been convinced.
But a couple of newcomers have arrived this year on to the shelves at Dan Murphy’s Welland store (and limited stores interstate as well as via online sales) and they have upped the impression of a much improved world of Chinese wine culture.
Both wines are cabernet sauvignon blends with merlot in different proportions, from the Ningxia region in mainland China’s central north and, more specifically, the Helan Mountains subregion.
The winemaker is a colourful woman Wang Fang, known apparently as “Crazy Fang” for her innovative winemaking and pioneering spirit.
Crazy it may seem, but her two wines, under the Kanaan Winery label that we can now buy here, are terrific, traditional, full-bodied cabernet blends, a style China’s serious wine drinkers relish from France and Australia.
The Kanaan Winery 2012 Black Beauty ($129) is a 70/30 cabernet merlot that’s spent two years in new French oak barrels that do impart their influence on the wine and perhaps limit more vibrant fruit characters, though it’s big, rich and soft with deliciously fine tannins.