China wins friends at French wine fest

Six Chinese wines vied for medals and a record number of Chinese wine tasters lent their palates to France's largest wine competition held in the southwest of France on Saturday.

"The Chinese want to know everything about wine - taste everything, learn how the system works," said Gilles Larrue, spokesman for the 35th edition of the Challenge International du Vin, in Bordeaux.

"Their participation will open doors for wines from around the world in the Chinese market," he added.

"This is a very good opportunity for me to complete my wine knowledge and technical tasting ability," said Hu Jia, 30, from Changchun.

Since 1977, the competition has been international. This year 35 countries sent more than 4,600 wines, including 33 from Japan and two from first-time competitor Russia. Tasters came from 14 countries, including 40 from China.

More than half of the Chinese participants are students at Bordeaux's sommelier school.

"We're here because it's important for us to train on wines from all over," said Guo Xiaogeng, 31, who plans to launch a wine promoting and education business in his home town near Mongolia.

The competition also opened a new category and special prize for wine made from organically grown grapes.

"Our jury was open to trying organic wines and to see what they are like. We had some that were good - a pleasure to drink - and some that were very bad," said local doctor and experienced taster Laurent Saura.

A local grand cru, Chateau Croque Michotte from Saint Emilion, and a Waverley Hills Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier blend from South Africa both won in the organic category.