前几天读到了一篇文章，写道：宁夏（令人振奋的葡萄酒产地，大致相当于美国一个州的大小）“将在未来几个月中引入基于酒庄的分级系统，在中国将是首次”，“will introduce the first winery-based classification system in China within the next few months.”）。
文中写道：“这一分级体系将含有6级”。主管这一事宜的政府部门——宁夏葡萄花卉产业发展局的局长这么解释其合理性：“为了保证质量，我们提高了进入分级系统的门槛”。宁夏目前已经是中国最大的葡萄酒产地，气候类型为大陆型气候。夏季高温大约有17-24摄氏度，降水量中等。外国葡萄酒界对此很感兴趣。今年早些时候，葡萄牙政府在此投资了几百万美元。据简西斯·罗宾逊（Jancis Robinson）称，已经在宁夏投资的法国企业包括：LVMH和Pernod Ricard。
简西斯撰写了一篇文章“中国最具潜力的葡萄酒省份？”“China’s most promising wine province?” ，她最近刚刚去过宁夏。
我觉得中国现在也许应该先刹一下车，了解一下分级系统的限制和危险。在法国，分级系统导致了僵硬的、基于价格的体系，并没有真正的服务于消费者。中国人也许同样应该看一下加州为什么放弃了分级系统。1982年，罗伊·安德瑞斯（Roy Andries de Groot）曾经几近偏执的想推行法国式的分级系统，这之后也有很多尝试，其中最极端的是吉姆·劳倍（Jim Laube）在1989年提出的设想，“加州最伟大的赤霞珠”（“The Wines of California.” ），其中共分为5个“列级”，与波尔多的相同。吉姆的初衷令人尊敬，但是他的实践证明分级系统不能实施也不应该实施。
I was reading the other day that Ningxia, the Chinese autonomous region (roughly equivalent to a U.S. State) in north-central China, “will introduce the first winery-based classification system in China within the next few months.”The article explains how there will be “6 classes in this classification.”The director of the governing body [of the] Ningxia Development Bureau for Grape and Flower Industry explained its rationale this way: “In order to ensure quality, we raise the bar for entering the classification.”Ningxia, in case you don’t know, is China’s largest-prooducing wine area,with a continental climate. Summer highs run to 63-75 degrees, with moderate rainfall. The foreign wine community is interested. Earlier this year the Portuguese government invested millions in the Ningxia wine industry. French companies that have invested in Ningxia include LVMH and Pernod Ricard, according to Jancis Robinson.
Jancis titled her article “China’s most promising wine province?” (but note that hedging question mark). She recently went to her first Ningxia Wine Festival–only to find that “Riedel got there several days before me.”
And whither Riedel goeth, so goeth sales.Ningxia’s largest domestic producers are Changyu and Dynasty, who together own 20,000 acres of vineyard land. Meanwhile, the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation as well as the household appliance company Midea have begun investing in Ningxia’s wine industry. That oughta tell you how big the Chinese think this thing is getting.
I haven’ tried any Ningxia wines, but two years ago the Decanter trophy for red wine from the Middle East, Far East and Asia went to a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Ningxia province called Jiabeilan, produced by Chateau Helan Qingxue, which also won a silver for its Classic Chardonnay and a bronze for a Riesling.
But back to the point: does China need a classification system? Here’s China Daily’s argument that it does:
“it is still difficult for many Chinese customers to determine the class of that they are buying. According to knowledge of persons in wine business, this is due to the fact that nation-level wine classification does not yet exist,though some wine practitioners do follow their systems they developed on their own. It is obvious not convenient for general wine consumers.”
Given the notorious insecurity Chinese consumers experience about buying wine (unless it’s a world famous cult brand, which not even most upper-middle class Chinese can afford), it’s no wonder that local authorities will try to convey a golden halo on their wines, in the form of such classifications. There is, though, an arriviste mentality here: China is so anxious to be accepted on equal terms with the West that they’re importing our customs and traditions even before they have had time to develop organically.
China might take pause and understand the limits and dangers of classifying wineries. In France, it’s led to a rigid, price-based sclerosis that hasn’t really served the consumer. The Chinese might also look at California’s aborted attempts at classification. There was Roy Andries de Groot’s wackily ambitious 1982 effort, “The Wines of California.” The most notorious was Jim Laube’s 1989 attempt, “California’s Greatest Cabernets,” in which he created five “Growths,” like in Bordeaux. Jim’s intentions were honorable, but he proved, albeit inadvertently, that it cannot and should not be done.
And can you imagine the squeals of protest when some Chinese wineries are left off the classification list altogether, or earn a rank they feel is dishonorable? The Chinese no longer are a people to sit by mutely while “the authorities” make decisions from the top down. They want to have a say in things. For all these reasons, and more, I’d advise the Ningxia Development Bureau for Grape and Flower Industry to stay away from this sticky wicket. Let the market create the classification, not the government.