You don’t see many tastings in Beijing with 30-plus wines featuring the same grape, but we did one for 50 consumers at The Merchants to celebrate Marselan, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache Noir that’s seen as particularly promising in China.
The tasting was part of this year’s festivities for World Marselan Day, officially held on April 27 to mark the birthday of Paul Truel, who created this grape in southern France in 1961. And we swapped the usual lectures and the PowerPoint presentations for a DJ and a sprawling outdoor area where people could chill and enjoy a few glasses with friends.
Frankly, the consumer side of China’s wine trade often feels pretty lackluster compared to the craft beer, cocktail and spirits scenes. Anything that gets consumers interested / imbibing is welcomed, especially given so much Marselan is downright delicious.
Our ~30 wines mostly hailed from across China, with a handful from France and Bulgaria. (Marselan is commercially produced in over two dozen countries, from Brazil and Uruguay to Spain and Serbia to Russia and Israel.)
And our attendees were mostly enthusiast younger Chinese consumers ready to try and in some cases buy—and who did not balk at prices of USD50 per bottle and up. I took it as another sign of local brands, including for wine, gaining acceptance among such consumers.
Anyway, there were two tables of wines. I handled the one with Marselan from Ningxia, Shanxi, Beijing and Shandong while the guys from Huailai wine region, just outside Beijing, handled their wines plus those from Xinjiang and abroad.
While pouring wines for four hours, a few themes did emerge. One, some attendees did have Chinese wine experience and knew a few brands, like Grace Vineyard from Shanxi and Silver Heights from Ningxia. Two, many were interested in trying natural / biodynamic / minimal intervention / etc wine and, in turn, the Marselan blend by Petit Garden from Ningxia. And three, people wanted to taste the most expensive wine, in this case, by Desert Winery of Ningxia. Beyond that, most people were also happy to try something new, to try brands they hadn’t heard of before.
And beyond a one-page sheet about Marselan, we didn’t push the education side much, opting instead to just provide info when asked. And to keep refilling glasses as we all enjoyed some good music, good weather and good company.
Thanks to The Merchants, the Huailai wine region guys, the wineries who gave samples and the consumers who turned up for a fun day. See below for a list of wineries involved.
(Note: This was one of numerous Marselan events held in at least a dozen cities in China this year. I’ll post more about those other activities. You can also check out our series of Q&As on the World Marselan Day blog, including with Lionel Le Gal, Charlie Xie (Desert Winery), Deng Zhongxiang (Charme and Lansai), Evan Goldstein and Chris Ruffle (Treaty Port Winery).