Changyu

Changyu

LEADING THE WINE MAKING INDUSTRY OF CHINA

Chinese commercial wine production began in 1892 when an overseas Chinese diplomat, Zhang Bishi, started his winery in Yantai. He imported half a million plants from the USA and appointed the Austrian consul, Freiherr von Babo, as his winemaker. Most of the plants failed to survive and history does not recount whether von Babo knew how to make wine, but nevertheless today the company is by far the biggest in the country, with a turnover of nearly US$800 million.

Château Changyu (or, to give it its full name, Changyu Pioneer Wine Company) is China’s oldest and largest wine producer, and among the top ten in the world in terms. The company has embarked on an extraordinary program of building European-style châteaux, architecturally based on examples from Bordeaux and two of them are represented by BB&R; Ch. Changyu Moser in Ningxia (Yinchuan province).

CHÂTEAU CHANGYU MOSER XV

CHÂTEAU CHANGYU MOSER XV

ALCOHOL: 12.5% By Vol.

SIZES: 750ml

CASE SIZE: 12

One’s first impulse to judge this wine simply for its novelty value, but that is to do it a disservice. Empirically, in the context of Chinese red wines, it is outstanding, but how does it stack up internationally? Priced in line with, for example, a relatively serious red Bordeaux, there is plenty of Cabernet character, pure fruit, no earthiness, well-integrated oak and, most importantly ripe tannins and a rewarding concentration. In a blind tasting of its Bordeaux peers, it would not be embarrassed, but neither would it be the best. It may be at the top end of its price bracket, but it’s in a field of one at the moment, and gives a fascinating glimpse of a possible future.

This is a partnership between the giant Changyu wine company and Lenz Moser, 15th generation (XV) of a 1,000 year old wine heritage. Lenz first went to China in 2005 to find a distributor for his Laurenz V Grüner Veltliner and ended up with not just an importer for his Austrian wine, but also an export arrangement for Changyu’s Chinese wines. He identified the Ningxia region in central, northern China, as his preferred site to produce his own red wine, with a climate he compares to Mendoza in Argentina.

The optimistic official Chinese line is that, statistically, this region is better than Bordeaux in temperature, humidity, water and heat coefficient but over 3,000 hours of sunlight and sitting 1,100 meters above sea level, there are good grounds for optimism. This provided good reason for Lenz to encourage Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for his premium blend, especially in preference to the widely available Chinese variation of Cabernet Gernischt.

The first vintage is 2008, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, with 12 months in French oak. Yields are low, the fruit is site selected, there a sorting table (the first in China), classic Bordelais treatment.