Wine aficionados are freaking out. Not only did Jia Bei Lan 2009 become the first Chinese wine to win an international trophy in Decanter magazine’s World Wine Awards in London, it’s now selling for $142 a bottle – a sticker unheard of for Chinese vintage.
This Chinese red wine has emerged to find rare success in a market heavily dominated by French vintage. The much abuzz Jia Bei Lan 2009 launched this month in Beijing, followed by launches in Chengdu and Shanghai.
Plenty of people in the industry are applauding Jia Bei Lan’s success as well-deserved. The label’s chief consultant Li Demei studied wine in Bordeaux, interning at the well-regarded operation Chateau Palmer. He accumulated 15 years of experience. Helan Qing Xue, the winery that’s created such a stir, has been making wine since 2005. Even Australian wine writer Jeremy Oliver rewarded the Jia Bei Lan team for their efforts with a tentative 19 out of 20 review in advance of the wine’s launch.
But just as many are ridiculing it. Some believe no Chinese wine should dare command such a price. Others feel Jia Bei Lan’s win was rigged, or that the wine is really a French vintage disguised by a Chinese bottle. The wine supply is also an issue: the distributor handling the launch, The Wine Republic, has just under 5,000 bottles, with the winery using the rest mostly for distribution. Wine Republic General Manager Campbell Thompson has targeted about 50 hotels, restaurants, and retailers to distribute half of the wine. Since most of those bottles will be consumed on the spot, only a few thousand bottles are likely to find their way into private collections. The strange mixture of excitement and jealousy surrounding Jia Bei Lan’s launch, at the very least, confirms its status as a rare treasure.