By The Glass

The 17th edition of the Grand Wine Experience, subtitled “Degustation,” took place at the Marriott Hotel Grand Ballroom on Nov. 24. Once more the country’s biggest wine aficionados flooded Resorts World Manila Newport City to be part of the country’s largest wine event of its kind. This year — as in the last two to three years — I noticed the increased presence of spirits, notably whiskies and gins. I guess the successful staging of Whisky Live also helped this cause.

The staple wine brands we see annually remained as visible as ever, namely: Montes, Yalumba, Wente, Ramon Bilbao, Concha y Toro, Champagne Henriot, Trapiche, Zonnin, Pirrammima, Jim Barry, Saint Clair, Mont Gras, etc. But what really struck me as an ever-evolving oenophile was the entry of China’s most critically acclaimed winery, Grace Vineyard from Shanxi Province.

Admittedly I have tasted some of its homegrown wines in my travels to China over the last decade or so, but outside of the commercially huge Dynasty (a joint venture with international spirits company Remy Cointreau), Changyu (China’s oldest and largest winery), and Great Wall, other Chinese wine brands I tried were sadly not very good, and I couldn’t even bother trying to remember their names. But over the last few years, the western press has become more gung-ho over Chinese wines, notably the more premium wines from the likes of Ao Yun, owned by the luxury company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy or LVMH, and Chateau Rongzi.

And then there is Grace Vineyard.

Grace Vineyard has been extremely visible in VinExpo events, notably the even-numbered years held in Hong Kong, and, while I was not lucky enough to get into the tasting forums at VinExpo, I finally got my chance to taste some Grace Vineyard wines at the last Grand Wine Experience. Philippine Wine Merchant, the top wine importer-retailer in the country (owned by the Joseph brothers) has been appointed as the exclusive Philippine importer of this renowned winery from China.

GRACE VINEYARD Chairman’s Reserve 2012 — A Bordeaux blend and one of China’s most recognized premium wines.

Grace Vineyard was founded by Chun-Keung Chan, an Indonesian-born Chinese in 1997, with the assistance of French viticulture and enology experts. The winery is located in Taigu, a district 40 kms. south of Taiyuan, capital city of Shanxi Province. Taigu was chosen because of its ideal terroir for viticulture — it has the continental climate, the right topography, and the Bordeaux-like draining sandy soil to make good wines. Just five years into the business in 2002, founder Chun-Keung Chan passed the baton to his American-educated and former Goldman Sachs-employee daughter Judy.

With the young, very active and dynamic Judy Chan at the helm, Grace Vineyards has ascended quite fast. The PR side in particular has been amazing. All the most respectable wine journalists and publications have given Grace Vineyard kudos for quality, dedication and innovation. I even saw a CNN video report on Grace Vineyard.

The winery also participated in many competitions and has done extremely well when it comes to medal hauls. One of its latest victories was the very prestigious Decanter Asia Wine Awards where the Grace Vineyard Tasya Reserve Marselan 2015 (a French crossed-bred varietal) won the “Best Red Single Varietal.” For sure, we will be hearing more of Grace Vineyard even here in the Philippines where we have unfortunate biases against China-made products.

There were only three different Grace Vineyard wines that were featured at the Grand Wine Experience, and, sadly, the winning Marselan wine from the Decanter Asia Wine Awards was not included. But the three wines brought in were actually their top range. Here below are my usual tasting notes:

• Grace Vineyard Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay 2014 — “mineral notes on the nose, capsicum, citrus, almonds, quite complex, and not your typical New World Chardonnay, dry, clean, crisp and flinty at the end; a pleasantly sophisticated white wine”

• Grace Vineyard Deep Blue 2012 — a Bordeaux blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet France; “black cherries, rhubarb, fresh ripe fruits, cedary, bitter-sweet tannins, supple on the mouth-feel, long with lingering berries at the end; another very good wine that has a lot of character and flavors”

• Grace Vineyard Chairman’s Reserve 2012 — another Bordeaux blend, but this time with 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc; “flambé berries, vanilla, creamy, a real fruit bomb, full-bodied, tannins quite fresh/green because of its youth, but on the finish it is a bit short; I was probably expecting a bolder end given its luscious fruits on the nose”

As I was telling Ronnie Joseph and some wine professional colleagues during the time I spent at the Grace Vineyard table at Grand Wine Experience, Grace Vineyard wines really taste closer to Old World than New World wines, and is, quite frankly, unlike other Chinese wines I have tasted (admittedly a very small sample size).

With an abundance of fine Chinese restaurants all over our country, it is perhaps no longer strange to actually enjoy high quality Chinese wines with Chinese cuisines.

I would love to visit their vineyards in the very near future especially due to our proximity to the Mainland, so I can compare them with my experience visiting European, Californian, Australian, South African, and other wine producing regions. China has indeed come a long way, and with good wines now being produced in the Mainland, what can’t China do?

The author has been a member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, and other wine-related concerns, e-mail the author at He is also on Twitter at