Wine from Chile is riding a wave in China with its good quality and affordable prices, and has been getting attention particularly among young drinkers.
The world's biggest drinker of red wine, China consumed 1.87 billion bottles of wine in total during 2013, according to a report by International Wine & Spirit Research. Red wine consumption in China also nearly tripled between 2007 and 2013, reported The Wall Street Journal.
While Chinese consumers often lean toward French or Italian wine due to European products' traditional prestige, new world wine such as wine from Chile is painting an entirely new picture of possibility for China's wine lovers.
"Chilean wine, in general, is approachable and easy to drink for beginners. Good Chilean wines are generally balanced between acidity and sweetness," Cass Lam, director of Evercohol, a Hong Kong-based wine distributor, told the Global Times.
Good quality Chilean wines like those from leading wineries Sena and Almaviva, according to Lam, also tend to age better. "They can be kept for five to 10 years and still taste good, sometimes even better, while most other wines are quite short-lived," she said.
Chile is home to a huge diversity of choices in wine with its varying climate across the country's 14 wine regions.
"Chilean wine is also a good value for the money, compared with traditional mainstream selections like Bordeaux or Italian wines," said Lam.
Wine from Chile has enjoyed significant benefits from tariff cuts after the country signed a free-trade agreement in 2005. In the first nine months of 2014, Chilean wine imports rose by nearly 50 percent in volume, despite an overall decline in wine imports of 7.4 percent.
Sweet and spicy
The hint of spiciness and sweetness in Sena wine usually pleases the Chinese palate and makes the wine easy to pair with Chinese cuisine.
"The taste [of Sena wine] is about freshness and elegance, but with a clear difference.: There is a hint of spiciness and a hint of sweetness in it that eventually melts into tobacco and dark chocolate," Francois Mateo, regional director Asia of Sena, told the Global Times.
The unique and surprising taste of Sena has allowed it to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best wines in the world. It has won many blind taste tests against benchmark wines such as Margaux or Lafite.
Sena's latest vintage, Sena 2012, got a 98/100 from James Suckling, the highest ever score and wine rating for any Chilean wine by any wine critic ever.
In terms of food pairing, Sena wine goes well with any caramelized meat such as pork suckling, Peking duck, or caramelized king prawn. It also matches with beef courses, especially beef filet Mignon or grilled beef, as long as those courses are not overwhelmed with sauce.
A mix of old and new
While Sena is known for its sweet and spicy finish, drinkers of Almaviva will find a traditional Bordeaux taste with a modern twist that will rival any of the French Grand Crus, vineyards that produce high quality wine.
Almaviva is an encounter between the two cultures of France and Chile. It is a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties cultivated on Chilean soil and climate.
The taste of Almaviva is rich and modern, with a mix of majority Cabernet and minority Carmenere. Its creamy mouthfeel is met with surprising acidity, featuring a balanced mix of dark berries, dark chocolate, tobacco and coffee.
"It should not be tasted young. I think it will be quite intriguing to follow how its taste changes over the years," said Lam, the distributor for Almaviva.
With the release of the first Montes Alpha wine back in 1988, Montes has become one of the first premium wineries in Chile. Planting vineyards on steep hillsides, the Montes Winery is right in the heart of Apalta in Colchagua Valley, one of Chile's best known wine regions.
Montes' high end selection Purple Angel is a blend of 92 percent Carmenère and 8 percent Petit Verdot, which showcases the spicy touches typical of Carmenère.
Purple Angel represents a whole new dimension for Carmenère, the long-lost grape variety that recently resurfaced in Chile after being presumed extinct in Bordeaux, its original home.
This selection is a structured wine with generous tannins, combining the aroma of roasted coffee with licorice, eucalyptus and shoebox leather.