Global wine stars join Decanter for Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

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China's fine wine lovers were out in force at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter over the weekend, tasting an array of top vintages from some of the world's best producers in glamorous surroundings.

Image: 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

More than 1,200 wine lovers came to the Ritz-Carlton in Pudong on Saturday 28 November to learn more about the world's major wine regions, taste mature vintages and get photos with their favourite producers in splendidly ornate surroundings.

No sign of the Chinese government's fabled austerity politics here.

As was fitting in the Chinese year of the ram, the day's first masterclass was Château Mouton Rothschild - which has two rams on its estate emblem.

Mouton MD Philippe Dhalluin talked ticketholders through eight vintages, including a vertical from 2005 to 2011 inclusive.

Dhalluin said 2005 was 'my personal favourite, even if it is still young', but he also lavished praise on both 2009 and 2010. Both were years which, by rights, winemakers should only see once in their lifetime, he said.

But, the class finished with the Mouton 1996, which showed well and instantly became an early contender for visitors' wine of the day.

'The Mouton 1996 was stunning,' said Parag Tripathi, who travelled with his friend from Delhi in India specifically to attend the Shanghai Encounter.

Image: 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

'I'm having a great time,' he said, after getting his picture taken with Dhalluin, who by that stage had acquired rockstar status in front of the giant photo booth with a backdrop of the Shanghai skyline.

Parag added, 'I was in the Rioja Alta SA seminar earlier this morning and we had Gran Reserva 1981 and 1982 Rioja vintages. I'm going to Chateau Musar next.'

Musar's Marc Hochar duly greeted guests with a host of mature wines, including the 1991 and 1974 vintages, and interwove a history lesson on winemaking in Lebanon. Hochar said wine has a 7,000 year history in the area. 'We are not Old or New World; we are the ancient world,' he quipped.

Just across the hallway, Jean-Charles Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages treated his audience to more of Bordeaux's finest vintages from the past 15 years, including 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Image: 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

This was followed by a virtual tour of Barolo led by Decanter's Italian wine maestro, Ian D'Agata. Extra tables were brought into a packed masterclass theatre as D'Agata and several producers showed 11 Barolo wines from all across the region's patchwork quilt of vineyards, which gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014.

Italian fine wine is growing in popularity in China and there was also an opportunity to enjoy Super Tuscan vintages at an Ornellaia seminar hosted by estate director and winemaker Axel Heinz and including 1997, 2002 and 2010 vintages.

'Every winery chosen by Decanter for this event is a must-try for any wine lover,’ said GUO Ying, senior sommelier of Four Seasons Hotel China and judge of Decanter Asia wine Awards(DAWA).

Just beforehand, there was palpable excitement among those lucky enough to get tickets for the Châteaux Haut-Bailly and Giscours seminar, which included the vaunted Bordeaux 1982 vintage, plus 1978, in double magnum.

Husband and wife duo Véronique Sanders-Van Beek and Alexander Van Beek, general managers of the respective Bordeaux estates, led the class. 'We're happy to take questions, just don't ask us which Château is the best,' they joked with the audience.

There was a chance, too, for guests to discover more about fine wine from Chile. Eduardo Chadwick, one of the most renowned Chilean wine producers and owner of the 20-year-old Seña estate, joined with Decanter's consultant editor, Steven Spurrier, to give a historical tour of Seña vintages, including 1997, 2000 and 2005.

Last but far from least was a lively seminar on emerging Chinese fine wines, which included Kanaan Winery's Pretty Pony 2013, a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Ningxia region that won a regional trophy at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2015.

Image: 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

There were also Chinese wines from Xinjiang, including Zhongfei's 'barrel aged Shiraz - Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, and from Yunnan, with Shangri-La's 'Altiwine No.6 Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot 2013. ‘Chinese producers are starting to explore their own characters and styles,’ said Guo Ying, who hosted the seminar with Steven Spurrier.

Beyond the seminars and masterclasses, an entire Ritz-Carlton ballroom was transformed into a treasure trove of great wines from 100 producers spanning 26 regions in countries around the world, including France, Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Chile and Argentina.

Throngs of visitors moved between the stands, tasting everything from d'Arenberg's McLaren Vale Riesling and Dead Arm Shiraz to Marqués de Cáceres' 1985, 1986 and 1987 Rioja vintages. There were plenty of older vintages on show, such as Daumas de Gassac 1989 from Languedoc-Roussillon.

'We've only got 200 bottles of the '85 left at the estate,' said Cristina Forner Vives, president of Marqués de Cáceres. 'It goes brilliantly with a good steak.'

Icewine proved particularly popular in the afternoon and visitors flocked around Inniskillin's giant ice sculpture for a taste of the estate's award-winning wines.

Chinese wine lovers showed diverse preferences on regions and styles.

Image: wine lovers at 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine encounter
Thank you all for speaking to us about your favourite wines.

Fiona Guo and Alex Jiang named Chateau Musar 2008 as their favourite wine, whereas Paris Chen preferred Château Pichon Baron 2010. Silvia Lu favoured the Brut sparkling wine made by Moet's Chandon winery in East Helan Mountain of Ningxia, while Gonzalez Byass Añada 1987 Sherry was Eric Wang's top choice of the day. The DAWA gold medal winning Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend Janus Geminus I of Omina Romana, Italy, was 'unforgettable', said Forest Fu.

Those taking a breather from wine could also enjoy a selection of intricately sculpted decanters from glass specialist Riedel, try new i-sommelier wine decanting machine, ‘ifavine’, or pose for ‘selfies’ in front of giant screens.

‘It's a fantastic event,’ said Miguel Torres Jr. ‘We really feel that this is the place to be in Shanghai.’

The convivial atmosphere was epitomised by one enterprising guest who began playing a grand piano for visitors while they queued for coats at the end of the day.

Summing up the day, Decanter publishing director Sarah Kemp said, 'We are delighted to be returning to Shanghai. The 2015 Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter has provided more unforgettable opportunities to taste, learn and discuss some of today's most exciting wines.'

A third encounter has already been scheduled for 26 November 2016.

Thank you to Acqua Panna and S Pellegrino mineral water for keeping guests hydrated on the day, to Riedel for supplying the glassware and to all Ritz-Carlton staff.

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Wu. Additional photo editing by Nina Fan Feng.)

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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