2010 Shanxi Grace Vineyard, Sonata Series Red, Wine of China.
When I look back on my year in wine, a few surprises stand out and this interesting red wine from China stands out for its quality and its unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Marselan (A varietal that was made from the crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, not usually found outside of France or Italy, though has found a home in Uruguay as well) and Cabernet Franc. Known in China as Grace Vineyard, the Shanxi Grace Vineyard, is a family-owned vineyard in northwest China, a landlocked provence, is located in Taigu county, 40 km south of Taiyuan, the capital city of Shanxi and is celebrating over 20 years in business and was China’s first boutique winery of note. The ‘Yi Yuan Winery’ [The Chinese name of Grace Vineyard] started in 1997 and was founded by Chen Jinqiang, a local to Taiyuan and who was asked by the Government to find a business that didn’t pollute, since his previous work involved the sale of “coke” the highly toxic form of coal, and settled on a vineyard. Now his daughter Judy Chan runs the winery and she’s found success with the wines, both in terms of quality, like this well made and complex red, and it getting market attention, even getting the wines in select restaurants in Hong Kong, into hotel groups, including the Peninsula and Shangri-La, as well as Cathay Pacific Airways, as the winery notes, which is famous for their strict selection process.
Deep in color and full in body, this 2010 Santa Series red feels a bit more Rhone like on the rich palate than a Bordeaux blend and the oak treatment is is subtle, refined even and the 13.5% natural alcohol is admirable as well, making for a dense wine that is well balanced showing dark berry fruits, black currant, plum and tangy cherry fruits along with a mix of wild herbs, cedar, anise and a hint of Cab Franc bell pepper along with some pretty floral notes and earthy/mineral. The age here has helped silken it out and the texture is very supple without being dull, quite impressive really, and as I had not real background in tasting wines from China, though had not an overly positive expectation, I was pleasantly relieved when I sipped this example. With air and time in the glass it got even better, taking on a mature Cabernet profile. Judy Chan adds that the Grace Vineyard can become truly successful only when people are able to recognize the terroir of Shanxi from its wine, noting due to the harsh winters, where the vines have to be buried to protect them from serve conditions, a hot humid summers put intense pressure on the grapes making it difficult, but not impossible, as this wine shows, to produce quality wines in Shanxi. Chan is convinced she can produce wines with recognizable and with, as she puts it, a likable local identity, meaning terroir driven expressions. I hope I get to try more of Shanxi Grace Vineyard, especially after leaning they also do an Aglianico!
($70 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive