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Put on your sunglasses for 'sexy' pinot noir

By Mike Peters in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-03 08:14

Put on your sunglasses for 'sexy' pinot noir

A Sotheby's auction of Chateau Palmer includes a barrel of the yet-to-be-released 2015 vintage. Provided to China Daily

A Chinese duck has changed Karen MacNeil's perspective on cabernet sauvignon forever.

"To say that good cabernet sauvignon delivers power and elegance simultaneously is a little counter-intuitive," says The Wine Bible author. "Eating really good roast duck on this trip to Hong Kong gave me a new way of thinking about it. You have to get through the crispiness on the outside before you reach the juiciness inside."

Speaking at this year's Vinexpo show last week, MacNeil has plenty of colorful allusions to the wines of California. "Making cabernet sauvignon is like coming home to a favorite black Labrador," she says. "Pinot noir, on the other hand, is like coming home to the worst cat in the universe."

Pinot noir, however, in her mind is "the sexiest wine out there" and well worth the challenges of producing it: "You almost can't drink it without putting on some really cool sunglasses."

Wine has leaped into the spotlight at Hong Kong's top auction houses, with both Sotheby's and Christie's announcing plans for significant sales.

The action starts on Saturday, when Sotheby's Hong Kong gallery presents the first-wine auction entirely dedicated to Chateau Palmer, more than 220 lots spanning 87 years (1928-2015), estimated at HK$7.7-12.4 million ($980,000-1.6 million).

Meanwhile, Christie's announced last week that it will team up with Napa Valley Vintners to put rare treasures of the California wine industry on the auction block this fall.

Christie's head of wine for China, Simon Tam, noted that the auction house has offered "made-for-auction-only" wines from Premiere Napa Valley annually for 20 years, but bringing the event to its Asia gallery for the first time reflects the strength and maturity of the market here.

"Traders will invest in these wines for their resale value later," he says. "And private collectors want them because they know these wines may not be around later when they want to drink them."

Professor and Decanter magazine columnist Li Demei presented a master class at VinExpo last week, "Discovering Wine Regions from China", with a tasting of eight wines. Five of the eight were from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, which has become a darling of international wine circles, but he also included wines from Yunnan province and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. All won at least a silver medal in recent Decanter wine awards competitions.

Among the most attention-getting were the Skyline of Gobi chardonnay reserve 2013, with a light and lingering tobacco nose, from Tiansai winery in Xinjiang; Jia Bei Lan rose 2014 from Helan Qingxue in Ningxia, the winery's first rose release; Marselan dry red 2013 from Chateau Pushang in Ningxia. Marselan has gorgeous deep color and a nose with litchee and other white fruit. The grape is being planted in more and more Chinese vineyards ("second only to France", says Li), particularly in Ningxia.

If you'd like to duplicate Li's tasting, all of the award-winning wines are available in shops or online. The other five tasted were:

��Barrel-aged shiraz 2013, from Zhongfei winery in Xinjiang;

��Cabernet gernischt 2013, from Chateau Yuhuang in Ningxia;

��Altiwine No 6 from Shangri-La winery in Yunnan;

��Cabernet sauvignon 2013 from Ningxia Tianjun Lisi winery;

��Pretty Pony 2013 from Kanaan Winery in Ningxia.

Italy was the country of honor at last week's Vinexpo in Hong Kong, where Italian ambassador Ettore Francesco Sequi was eager to tell all comers why they should be drinking Italian wine.

"First, it's excellent. Italy is the number-one exporter of wine in the world - there is a reason for that!" he tells China Daily. Italian wine is also very competitively priced in China, so wine lovers can get good value for money.

Italy celebrated its national day on Thursday.

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