Sunday, 18 May 2008

Changli Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Changli, China, ¥108, cork seal

Chinese wine; you've got to love the reputation. I purchased this in Shanghai at Easter and finally the excitement got too much and I couldn't hold off any longer and opened it. Changli is a town in the Hebei Province and wine region in China's northern Bohai Bay area. It is home to 31 wineries and 50,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines and has been given the distinction of 'dry red wine centre of China'. I couldn't find any inforamtion about the Changli winery so if you're in the know, let me know.

Changli Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 is a light red in colour with a slight orange tinge. The nose is pretty full on and about the nicest thing I can say about it was there was a hint of bacon, but there were also aromas of nail polish, rotting vegetables and burning; pretty ugly. The palate was just as messy and dominated by smoke, tar and the unfortunately recognisable flavour of burnt jam. Changli Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 has all the fire and brimstone without the power; it's weak and thin with no palate weight and is devoid of fruit flavours. This wine was terrible, but I wander how it would have been back in 1998 and why it was aged for ten years? This has done nothing to install faith in the Chinese wine industry.


Edward said...


One of the predictions by Berry Brothers (London) is that by 2050 China will have a dominant position in the wine trade! I guess there are geographic areas that are yet to be discovered and there is so much potential, if they get the right clones, drop the yields and pay attention to details, rather than profit.

When I was in HK, I really wanted to locate a few bottles of Chinese wine to try, but perhaps luckily, my search was fruitless.

This particular bottle sounds awful, but as you say, 10 years is a long time for a wine with no cellaring reputation.

Andrew said...

Hi Edward

Chinese wine is an interesting phenomenon, which is strangely not discussed that much in HK. There's a bit around Hong Kong, but not much in the main wine shops / supermarkets; I seem to see the Chinese offerings more in more 'local' wine/booze shops. It's not normally cheap either; probably averaging between $HK60-100 for which you could get an OK bottle of Australian or French wine these days.

I'm not sure if there's high quality Chinese stuff around. I noticed relatively expensive bottles on the winelists of decent restaurants and bars in Shanghai (M on the Bund, the bar at the Renaissance Hotel etc)

I suppose for Chinese wine it's just a matter of time. The Chinese are generally very good at intricate farming so I'd assume they've got the potential to grow good grapes and the cheap labour to do it competitively. As the Chinese market expands education is going to play a key role, but I’d also say the use of cork, excessive/stupid aging and bad storage are all serious problems. It’s an interesting topic, especially, as you said, China's role as a producer and consumer is only going to grow rapidly in the next few decades.

I've had more positive experiences with wines from other parts of Asia. I enjoyed the Japanese wines I've tried - there are a couple written up here and I had a few by the glass when I was in Hokkaido last year that were just as good. I've also got a bottle of Korean red to try, which I'll try to write up (though it's a cheap one I got from a 7/11 so I'm not holding my breath). I've also got another Chinese bottle I picked up from Shanghai to review, but I'm hesitating now after the Changli...