Chinese wines take on Bordeaux in blind tasting

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A blind tasting to be held in Beijing Wednesday will pit Chinese wines against vintages from Bordeaux, repeating a now-infamous 1976 event in which the classics were humbled by new world wines.

A group of experts from France and China will sample five wines from the world-famous French wine-producing region and five from Ningxia, a region of northern China that has won plaudits for its wines.

China has enjoyed a huge wine-drinking boom in recent years and is now Bordeaux's largest export client. Analysts have predicted it will overtake the United States to become the largest wine consuming nation within 20 years.

Most of the wine made in China has until recently been mass-produced and of low quality, but experts say there are now some good Chinese wines being produced -- notably from the remote and mostly arid Ningxia region.

A Ningxia vintage was named best Bordeaux-style wine over 10 pounds ($15) at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London this year -- prompting Wednesday's event.

"Wine is not a new thing in China, but we are at the very start of China's fine wine story," said organiser Jim Boyce, who runs the China wine blog

"The very good ones are mostly being made in Ningxia. For me, the link is that a lot of the wine makers there have been trained in Bordeaux."

Moet Hennessy, the wine and spirits arm of France's LVMH luxury group, said this year it was planting its first Chinese vineyard in Ningxia to produce sparkling wine.

Wednesday's tasting comes 35 years after British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organised a blind tasting that pitted some of France's finest wines against lesser-known names from California.

The Californian bottles came out on top, shocking the wine establishment, which had always considered old world vintages to be superior.

"I don't know what the outcome will be today," said Boyce. "The Chinese wines may not win, but at least now they are in the game."

© 2011 AFP

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