And the winner is...
Jia Bei Lan 2009
What is impressive about Jia Bei Lan 2009 is that the panel of all three judges was unanimous that this was the top wine in its category. The balance and finesse of the wine was very stark as this Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%); Merlot (15%) and Cabernet Gernicht (5%, believed to be related to Cabernet Franc, or possibly, Carmenere) was preceded, and followed, by some massively extracted, jaw-breaking reds.
Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red Wine 2009 was produced from hand-picked grapes which underwent a second hand sorting in the winery. Fermented around 30 degrees celsius, it had three weeks of skin contact. Neither fined, nor filtered, the wine was aged 12 months in 60% new French and European oak, and 40% used American oak.
The first vintage was 2005 and annual production of this top red is around 20,000 bottles (only 13,000 bottles in 2009). The winery produces around another 30,000 bottles of another red.
The winery and vineyard is situated in land-locked Ningxia Province (which has a sizeable Muslim population) in north-central China (just below Inner Mongolia). Summer is hot and dry, and winter dry but extremely cold (temperatures can dip to minus 25 degrees celsius). The vines have to be buried in the ground in order to preserve them.
The winery is owned – half and half – by the local grape and wine association and the management team. Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red Wine 2009 is, presently, only available in Yin Chuan, capital of Ningxia, and one shop each in Beijing and Shanghai. The ex-cellar price is RMB 148 or around £13.
LI De Mei, 41, is consultant winemaker to Jia Bei Lan since 2006. He did post-graduate studies at the prestigious Enita de Bordeaux in 2001 (and interned at Chateau Palmer for six months). Li works as a wine consultant, and lectures at the Beijing Agriculture College. He is also a guest lecturer at the Ecole Superieure d’Agriculture, Angers, France.
Written by Ch’ng Poh Tiong