A taste of bordeaux in China A popular joke goes: "How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune."
Such humour has not deterred Dr Karl Heinz Hauptmann, founder of Bessa Valley winery, in Bulgaria; Alira, in Romania; and, closer to home, Chateau Nine Peaks, in Shandong province. The German-born corporate finance expert is also the founder of Telor, a European private equity fund, and the former head of European equity derivatives at Merrill Lynch. Hauptmann is a man of patience and long-term vision. He shares the belief of some chateau owners that it is difficult to make money in the first 100 years of a winery's existence, but adds, "In the case of China [where the wine culture is new], you will make money when Chinese families drink wine at home. This is still far away."
After conducting exhaustive soil research at 50 sites, Hauptmann decided to locate his vineyard in Laixi, Shandong, for three reasons: "terroir, terroir, terroir". It is that elusive combination of climate, soil and microclimate that makes the site unique. The winery is situated in the foothills of the Nine Peak Mountain. Hauptmann says the latitude is the same as that of Bordeaux, creating an ideal site for bordeaux varieties. The continental climate, with daytime highs of 30 degrees Celsius to nighttime lows of 15 degrees, preserves acidity in the grapes. The soil is a combination of lime and gravel, which optimises drainage and allows roots to penetrate more deeply in search of minerals and nutrients.
The 90-hectare vineyard consists of classic Bordeaux red grapes - cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, merlot and cabernet franc, as well as cabernet gernischt and syrah - and one white variety, chardonnay. Wine expert Marc Dworkin incorporates French winemaking techniques to produce an elegant, old-world style of wine. Shandong wines can sometimes be overpriced but Chateau Nine Peaks is an exception, delivering relative value for quality.
Chateau Nine Peaks Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Vibrant, ripe peach, stone fruit with citrus. Medium body with refreshing acidity balanced by ripe tropical fruits. Approachable, fresh, easy drinking style. HK$213
Chateau Nine Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Hauptmann's goal is a Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon. The wine is made from fruit sourced from young vines that have not developed the complexity of older vines. The current vintage is made entirely from cabernet sauvignon, but the plan is for the wine to be blended with cabernet franc and merlot.
Dense, black currant, leathery, licorice, herbal notes. Elegant black fruit, leaner structure, some earthy notes with firm tannins. Perfect for drinking now. HK$213
Chateau Nine Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
This is only the third vintage of the cabernet sauvignon but already it is showing great potential.
The reserve wine is a selection from the ripest grapes from drier parcels of the vineyard. It is aged in 20 to 30 per cent of new oak barriques for a period of nine to 10 months.
Restrained savoury black fruit, with some spicy oak hints. On the palate a core of ripe fruit intensity framed by some complex oak tannins. Finishing long. HK$313
The wines are available from East Meets West Fine Wines emw-wines.com