Friday 14 February 2020

Domaine Franco-Chinois re-visit

When I visited Canaan Wine (迦南酒業) and its sister winery Domaine Franco-Chinois (中法莊園), located in Huailai (懷來) in Hebei province back in mid 2017, the wines were not commercially available despite the fact that wine has been made since 2003. The selection of wine I tasted then was much better than some of the more famous Chinese brands but the owner thought that it was still not good to be released.

Therefore I was glad to finally have seen and tasted Canaan Wine, under the name 詩百篇, at Shanghai Pudao retail shop cum wine bar in November 2019, and even more excited to visit the winery again in the beginning of 2020.

Canaan Wine was launched in 2018 but they decided to use the brand name 詩百篇 to avoid confusion with another winery in Ningxia called Kanaan Winery (迦南美地酒莊). The name 詩百篇 suits well because the Taiwanese owner is a Christian and the name implies hymn and also has a poetic connotation in Chinese.

Most wineries in China only focus on Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend and Chardonnay regardless if the soil and climate are suitable for these varieties. Cannan is creative and has also planted Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Syrah at different attitude between 500 and 900m, spread over 300ha. Winemaker Zhao Desheng likes to experiment with clones. He has 10 clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 clones of Pinot Noir. He explained that different clones have different expressions even fermented with the same yeasts and aged in same barrels therefore blending them together with give more complexity to the final wine.

The Riesling 2017 is refreshing with abundant lime aroma not dissimilar to Clare Valley’s while the 2017 Syrah has a pleasant peppery nose and integrated tannin. I like the lively 2017 Pinot Noir which has potential to develop further in bottle. The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve shows depth and is well balanced.

Another impressive wine was the Domaine Franco-Chinois 2013 Marselan (we tasted this alongside 2014 vintage). Marselan is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache developed in the 1960s in France. It was planted at Domaine Franco-Chinois in early 2000, then a Sino-French joint venture before being acquired by Canaan in 2010. It was the first planting of Marselan in China and it prove to adapt well. It is easier to manage than Cabernet Sauvignon and is gaining popularity in China. Although Deshang said it is not easy to make an outstanding Marselan, this 7 years old Marselan is still bursted with red fruit aromas supported by great acidity and I’m pretty convinced that this is one of the outstanding Marselan in China.

Apparently, when the owner of Canaan decided to make wine in China, they spent three years between 2006 and 2009 researching 16 regions in China and decided Huailai in Hebei is the most suitable in terms of soil  and climate. The region has been growing table grapes for 1,000 years and China’s first bottle of dry white wine was made here in 1979.

The wine is not available in Hong Kong yet but if you are visiting Beijing, drop by the winery where the beautiful tasting room has just been built. It is just 90 minutes from the centre of Beijing.

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