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Chinese Wine Too Good to Be True

I had high hopes for Chinese wine. And I still do, to a certain extent. But I can't say I'm surprised by the latest news that the government is shutting down some wineries and pulling wine from the shelves after finding a whole lot of faked, adulterated, and chemically altered wine on the market.

I've heard rumors of such practices from various people in the wine industry, many of whom scratch their heads when they compare the amount of wine on the market with the amount of acreage under cultivation in China. The two don't add up. Add to that the ambitious and sometimes reckless drive for growth at all costs (Chinese Milk Powder anyone?), and this sort of thing was bound to happen eventually.

I had my first Chinese wine several years ago, when it appeared, irresistibly on a wine list at a wine bar I happened to drop in to in LA. There it was, a Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon, calling to me, as all unfamiliar and exotic wines do. I had to try it, and I was very pleasantly surprised at just how good it was.

After trying a lot of other Chinese wines it remains the best example I've had, and has always given me hope that China would emerge after a few decades of work, as a competent and productive wine region on the world stage.

This latest news, which includes the detention of six individuals and the shuttering of thirty wineries in conjunction with experts suggesting that some of the wines were potentially harboring carcinogenic chemicals, is an unfortunate blow to an industry very much in its infancy.

Having said that, however, it certainly won't be a bad thing for consumers or the industry as a whole to have a little more scrutiny and controls in place to make sure what comes out of Changli province is both genuine and drinkable.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud