Beijing: Wine Tasting
The Forbidden City
As Beijing becomes a more cosmopolitan city then Wine Tasting becomes more popular and there are plenty of opportunities for tasting wines from all over the world.
While wine experts and magazines can rank and recommend till the cows come home, the only way to really know whether or not a wine does it for you is to taste it. An easy and entertaining way to learn about the best available wines in Beijing is to head out on the town and attend some of the many wine tastings and dinners held every week.
Wine tastings offer the opportunity to sample half a dozen different wines for the same price you would have spent buying just one. It is the perfect way to get to know more about what kind of wine suits your palette and a great way to find the best bargains in Beijing.
While a few wine tastings still take the traditional route of high-browed sniffing, swirling and spitting, a vast majority of events in Beijing are simply good times with wine involved. Wine companies hold tastings primarily to introduce their products to customers or show off to visiting wine makers and it is almost always in their interest to give guests a great deal for their money. There are also a few independent groups around Beijing that put on tastings purely for the love of the fermented grape juice and these events are always very educational and entertaining.
Most wine tastings will feature between four to six wines and will focus on a geographic region, particular label or a grape variety. The more you taste, the more you can understand and the easier it is to enjoy wine. For a mere beverage, wine has developed an exclusive vocabulary that tends to unnecessary intimidate those who haven't read extensively on the subject. In short, learning all there is to know about what 'malolactic fermentation' or 'ageing on the lees' does to a wine is pointless if all you need to know is that you love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Wine tastings can also offer rare opportunities to sample wines the average consumer would usually have little access to. Vertical tastings (where you taste different years of the same wine) or elaborate dinners featuring fine wines from the likes of Chateaux Lafitte, Chateaux Latour or Chateaux Margaux give you the chance to try some of the world's best wines for a relatively modest fee. Events can cost as much as 4,000RMB, but provide the opportunity to try wines that are scarce on the open market.
Here are four places to look to for great wine tastings:
ASC Wines: Tastings every Thursday night rotating between Café Europa, the Bookworm and The Pavillion. They hold between three to four high-end dinners a month ranging from 400-4,000 RMB with great food and wine.
Beijing Wine Club: An independent tasting group that holds monthly wine events ranging from blind tastings to wine quizzes that incorporate manageable snippets of wine education in a relaxed social environment. Events are 150RMB.
Sequoia Café: Regular Friday night tastings at 6.30 pm at the Sanlitun branch. Ranging between 50-100RMB, it is the best deal in town with four to five wine samples and nice light snacks.
Summergate Wines: Monthly tastings ranging from events such as New World/Old World comparison tastings to high-end vertical tastings.