The Year of the Rat heralds a new cycle in the Chinese zodiac, and 2020 marks a new stride towards a new decade. Yet the start of this year had been anything but auspicious, with widespread lock-down across China as soon as Chinese New Year’s Eve was over, as China and the world try to grapple with the onset of a new corona virus that was rapidly becoming an epidemic within China and escalating into an international health concern.
Yet in some ways, it is this Chinese New Year that reminds us of what the festival was originally for – a mark of defiance against winter ailments, by ways of celebrating life triumphing above all – with fireworks to scare away demons and winter wines to keep the whole family healthy. So in the true spirit of the Chinese New Year, we must keep on celebrating life and blessings, and why not drink some Chinese wines for good measure.
So in the spirit of optimism, unity and solidarity with Wuhan and China, here’s a round-up of my Chinese New Year wine events.
26th January – Channel 4 Sunday Brunch: my selection of 3 Chinese wines for the CNY festive period, all with distinctive Chinese label arts.
Brighton CEDP Chinese New Year Gala with a Chinese wine talk, in conversation with Geoff Raw, chief executive of Brighton & Hove City Council
27 January: Chinese wine tasting at ‘The Tasting Club’, hosted by The Royal Ocean Racing Club
I really enjoyed this particular event. I presented 11 Chinese wines comprising of whites, reds and a sweet ice wine, from three wine regions of China to a very engaged and curious audience of very knowledgeable wine lovers. The guests are members of ‘The Tasting Club’, founded in 1959. I am delighted that Oz Clarke and Keith Grainger also came to the tasting!
29 January: House of Lords, Palace of Westminster, Confucius Institute for Business London LSE Chinese New Year reception
A wonderful celebration at UK House of Lords Chinese New Year reception hosted by Confucius Institute for Business London. With several keynote speakers, including Mr Xia Jianhui, Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy. A successful and fun evening celebrating achievements, friendships and of course, a spot of Chinese wine presentation plus some well-received charity raffle prizes in the shapes of my pick of Chinese fine wines and my book The Chinese Wine Renaissance (if I may say so myself!)
4th Feb: BBC London evening News – Brexit impact on wine imports from EU and further afield… such as China ?
Brexit is a a topic that is still full of uncertainties and contentions. BBC’s Marc Ashdown had a novel angle to the topic of Brexit and UK’s trade negotiations with the EU and the rest of the world – through the perspectives of wine & spirits imports and exports (UK imports roughly the same amount of wines as it exports spirits such as whisky). I am delighted to be interviewed by Marc on the topic of how China sees Brexit in terms of opportunities and risks as a potentially closer trading partner.
UK’s wine consumer market is considered mature and an important ‘rite of passage’ for new wine regions. UK’s wine journalism and critics are also widely respected globally. Therefore some Chinese wine producers see the UK as the most attractive and strategic international market. It was also a convenient hub into the EU, therefore coming to the UK would have served a dual purpose. However this second purpose is now in jeopardy, which in turn would affect some producers to pause and observe how the UK trade deals would pan out and adjust their international strategies accordingly. Would they still choose the UK as their first international port of call or would they opt for mainland Europe to test the waters first? We will have to wait and see.