China’s “Great Wine Hope” Still Hard To Come By

Interest Soaring For Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 From Ningxia

The scarcity and curiosity surrounding Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 could make it a collector favorite

The scarcity and curiosity surrounding Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 could make it a collector favorite

After receiving the honor of becoming the first-ever Chinese wine to win an “International Trophy” at this September’s Decanter World Wine Awards, it seems that the the Ningxia-based winery He Lan Qing Xue‘s hard-to-come-by Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 could potentially become a target for speculators and collectors. As Jim Boyce writes today for the Grape Wall of China blog, while much of the attention in the Chinese wine world remains fixated on broader trends like the rising popularity of top-tier Burgundy, still-strong demand for Lafite, Yao Ming’s Napa adventure, and the recent China debut of Penfolds Bin 620, Jia Bei Lan is quietly attracting the attention of curious wine lovers and collectors alike.

From Boyce, who points out that Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 recently scored highest among Chinese red wines priced from 150-300 yuan (US$24-47) at the recent North by Northwest China Wine Challenge, though it was not a unanimous winner:

On one hand, interest in Jia Bei Lan is skyrocketing — I get emails or calls about this wine almost every day. On the other, I am told production totals a modest 13,000 bottles. For the speculator, this is intriguing territory: There will only ever be one first Chinese wine to win that international trophy and there is a limited – and declining – amount of it. Thus, some people think it a good bet to put 10, 50 or more cases away as an investment. (We’ll ignore for now the possibility of counterfeiting, the possibility of production numbers being off, etc.)

The challenge at the moment is Helan Qing Xue has no China distributor. I have heard for weeks that a deal is on the verge of being signed but there has been no official announcement. And one can only guess what the price will be when a deal is done. During the past few years, I have heard the price of Jia Bei Lan is around rmb220. The most recent issue of Revue du Vin in China listed the 2009 at rmb498. And a friend told me he picked up a bottle of it at the Ningxia Provincial restaurant in Beijing a few weeks ago for over rmb700. Given this, the kudos for the wine, and that well-regarded Chinese wines like Grace Vineyard’s Chairman’s Reserve and Silver Heights’ The Summit are priced between rmb400 and rmb500, I’m guessing we won’t see rmb220 on the sticker. Then again, it is almost certainly guaranteed to be cheaper than this.

Though Jia Bei Lan isn’t the first Chinese wine to stoke collector interest — Boyce notes that the inaugural 2007 vintage of The Summit by Silver Heights (previously on Jing Daily), only 3,000 bottles of which were produced, may hold that distinction — the international accolades and interest in He Lan Qing Xue have “pushed it to a higher level.” The idea that a Chinese wine could become a future auction darling certainly is an intriguing possibility, particularly when much of the attention paid to the role of Chinese collectors in the global wine market is the possibility that they could inflate prices for top wines like DRC, Château Haut-Brion, and Pétrus to “dangerous” levels.



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