On a recent trip to Sacramento, I picked up, as usual, a few intriguing bottles of wine from Corti Brothers grocery, a cornucopia of delicious and exotic foodstuffs and potables from nearly everywhere in the galaxy. Darrell Corti has one of the most discriminating palates around, an astonishing mental storehouse of food and wine knowledge, and more opinions than are dreampt of in normal mortals.
One of the bottles I couldn't resist was a bargain-priced 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from China. Chinese wine -- grape wine -- is barely visible on the US market so far, but just wait. When the People's government decided to give wine grapes a try several years back, they did it up in style, planting by some reports a million acres of grapes, just to see what worked where. Not your average test plot.
The Dragon's Hollow label is imported by Broadbent Selections, which is ahead of the curve -- or maybe going off a cliff? -- in introducing Chinese wines to North America. The Broadbent website page on this wine is full of fascinating information, historical and ecological, about the thousand-year history of wine in this area of western China and the efforts to reclaim desert space for winegrowing. The website doesn't mention that the brand owner is named David Henderson, not a common name in Ningxia Hui, but the Facebook page does.
This is a perfectly nice ten dollar everyday Cab, not the choice for your 21st birthday, but certainly on a par with similarly-priced bottles from more familiar continents. No faults, no excesses, nothing sticking out, smooth and drinkable, with an almost nostalgic alcohol level of 12.5%.
But here's why I think this wine is important, and worth trying. A decade ago, the Australian wine industry set its sights on the US market, and shipped over a flood of flavorful, well-made, slightly simple Shiraz, priced in the single digits. They made a killing, and soon took an unimaginable bite out of US wine sales.
Project that model forward to China, with its million-acre pilot vineyard and its undervalued currency, and imagine what your store shelves will look like in another ten years. China Fine Wine, LLC, which produces Dragon's Hollow, already churns out 100,000 cases of wine a year. Be the first on your block, etc., etc.
TASTING NOTE. One more small thing I can't resist, a detour into the murky world of tasting notes. I know that different wine reviewers often clash in their descriptors, but these two come from the importer and the producer of the same wine.
The Broadbent website says "Good intensity in color with a young, pinkish rim, and a rosy colored hue. . . . Spicy on the palate with peppercorn flavors and hints of sweet fruit, raspberry, and spiced apple."
The back label of the bottle itself says: "This Cabernet has a deep red color, with the primary taste being black currant with overtones of blackberry and mint."Take your pick. Blind Muscat thinks it tastes like Cabernet and likes it a lot.
Price: $10.99 at Corti. Alcohol: 12.5%. Points: Sorry, I can't count in Chinese. Full disclosure: Paid cash money.