The Zoom Tasting of seven Tiansai Vineyards wines was an opportunity to gauge the progress of this leading Chinese producer.
As a contributor – for Asia – to the annual Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book, the tasting is of invaluable help. The same too because I happen to also be Regional Chairman of Asia – in charge of China, Japan, and India – for Decanter World Wine Awards since it started in 2004. And also became I am a columnist for the United Kingdom’s The World of Fine Wine magazine, specialising in Asia – particularly China.
Being able to round up another seven Key Opinion Leaders, including two MWs, an AVIA Italian Wine Expert, Wine Buyer for Singapore’s largest supermarket chain (I am their wine consultant), a leading distributor, the Director of Wine for Raffles Hotel, and the Wine & Spirits Columnist for Singapore’s Number 1 Chinese newspaper, means Tiansai (and myself) can draw on a wealth of expertise and invaluable resource of opinions.
Chen Lizhong, Founder & Proprietor of Tiansai
Professor LI Demei, Consultant of Tiansai
Lilian Carter, Winemaker of Tiansai
The Zoom Tasting on 2 March 2020 is of international importance because our panel of 8 includes members who are French, English, Indonesian, and Singaporean.
Two of the tasters – Annette Scarfe MW and Stephane Soret – were on my panel at Decanter World Wine Awards 2011 when we gave Jiabelan Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Gold Medal (and which went on to win Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon in its price range).
Here are my three favourites, wines I enjoyed tremendously and would be so proud to serve to family, friends, and other wine writers.
T20 Chardonnay 2018 has a fine line of pristine, purity of fruit and a background of minerally freshness. When a Chardonnay is so elegant, it is important we do not serve it too cold. A big, round glass is also recommended for the subtley and nuances in the fruit to open up.
T95 Marselan 2018 is floral and packed with rich, layered blue/purple fruit. Marselan being a crossing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, I like the fact both parents are trying to exert their jealous, individual charm, and influence on the “child” they have created.
Reserve Syrah/Marselan 2016 is the “Oscar Academy Award” winner of the tasting. The complex aromas flow directly into the equally intense palate. Violets, spice, dark cherries, herbs, and much more. This top red reminds a few of us of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone’s greatest red.
The future shines for Tiansai!
From left CH’NG Poh Tiong, Richard Chai, CHAN Wai Xin, Susan Santoso, NG Siang Ping, Annette Scarfe MW, Stephane Soret, TAN Ying Hsien MW
COMMENTS FROM THE PANEL
“I think you have done very nicely in showing a good distinction between the T20 – a richer, riper style Chardonnay – and the slightly more elegant Reserve Chardonnay. The T50 Syrah 2018 is a beautiful expression of the variety, and reminds me of the Northern Rhone. The Selection Syrah Viognier 2017 blend is a very impressive result and reminds me of a very ripe vintage in the Northern Rhone.
“As for the Reserve Syrah Marselan 2016, the Marselan dominates and reminds me very much of a Grenache. I could have mistaken this wine for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
“The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2016 shows a very strong Cabernet character, a capsicum character, which reminds me of a Mediterranean Cabernet Merlot blend, lots of ripeness and richness, again very well done. These wines are some of the most well-made Chinese wines I have experienced, so well done Tiansai.” TAN Ying Hsien MW, Educator and Founder of Taberna Wine Academy.
“The T50 Syrah 2018 is showing a lot of typicity of the variety, you’ve got beautiful fruit, this is really expressing the Syrah very well. It’s like a very ripe Northern Rhone style. Or like a New Zealand Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels but with much nicer, richer fruit. The fruit on the T 95 Marselan 2018 is gorgeous as well. From a really personal point of view, I would like to see this with a tiny bit less oak in it. The quality of the fruit is amazing. Congratulations of these two wines, I think they are great.
On a slightly more positive note on the use of oak, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2016, even though it has 100 percent new oak, seems to take the oak so much better. The fruit really absorbs it very, very well.
The Selection Syrah Viognier 2017, you can see hints of a Cote-Rotie there. I think you have got very good varietal prospect there.
I think it’s great what Tiansai is doing with different styles and different blends. I love the experiments you are doing. So, well done. Keep it up,” Annette Scarfe MW, Consultant for global wine companies, trade bodies, and restaurants, and Panel Chair of International Wine Challenge.
“The tasting demonstrated Tiansai’s potential with warm climate varieties particularly Marselan, Shiraz and Viognier. Its intensity and purity of fruit are testaments of its quality.
“I also admire the Tiansai team’s dedication at finding the best fit and their identity of the region, amidst the wilderness of the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts.
“Only time can tell where Xinjiang will stand among the world wine industry, and I look forward to hearing more about their advancement in future,” CHAN Wai Xin, VIA Italian Wine Expert, Lecturer at Nanyang Technological University and a Tech Consultant.
“For Tiansai wines, what surprised me is its Syrah, its lighter in body, more delicate and elegant as compared to Australia Barossa’s Syrah. 2018 is a very young vintage yet so approachable, vibrant of cherry fruits and very fresh, its perfect for our tropical climate here!
“Marselan 2018 also has good balance, very aromatic, fruity, more structure and power, beautiful in style. The blending of Syrah and Marselan 2016 shows the huge potential of these two grapes in the future.
“Tiansai winery is very daring to turn the Gobi desert into vineyards, irrigate the vineyards by Tianshan snow water and using organic farming. Although only founded ten years ago, we look forward to how this winery experiment and search for true expressions of terroir of Xinjiang through its wine styles,” NG Siang Ping, Senior Correspondent for Wine & Spirts, and Arts, for Singapore’s leading Chinese news dailies Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao, and their website Zaobao.sg.
“I can’t remember when the last time I tasted a Chinese wine as I seldom taste Chinese grape wine. The Tiansai wines we tasted on 2 March were of a high quality and definitely comparable to European or American wine at the same price level. I am so excited to see the development of Chinese Grape wine industry over the last 10 years, and its direction toward quality over quantity is commendable.
“In FairPrice Supermarket, we have not stock up enough Chinese grape wine yet except for 1 or 2 SKUs from Grace Vineyard, but we will definitely explore the possibility to list-in Tiansai wine and other Chinese wine into FairPrice,” Richard Chai, Wine Buyer of NTUC FairPrice and FairPrice Finest, Singapore’s largest supermarket chain (revenue in 2020 estimated at S$4 billions).
“Congratulations for a successful Zoom virtual tasting last night (2 March 2021), at the Imperial Treasure Restaurant, with the excellent dinner pairing menu (after the tasting). I appreciate the opportunity given to Alfa in tasting the Tiansai wines from Xinjiang, with the group of KOLs and particularly meeting Madam Chen, Professor Li and Ms. Lilian Carter, the winemaker from Melbourne.
My personal takeaway about Tiansai wine is that, they have depicted a style of its own, curating wines with its own unique personality from the beautiful region. It is a dedicated effort worthy to be applauded,” Susan Santoso, founder and proprietor of Alfa International and www.ewineasia.com.