Chinese wines compete in French challenge

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Indy Lifestyle Online

More than 4,000 wines from around the world vied for medals in France's biggest wine competition this weekend, with China competing for the first time.

More than 700 tasters, a mix of winegrowers, technicians, merchants and trained amateurs, converged on the sleepy village of Bourg, near Bordeaux, where they judged 4,435 wines from 33 countries in two days of blind tastings.

Chinese wine makers entered the competition for the first time, submitting eight wines. The winners will be decided by the end of April.

"Bordeaux wine is very well-known in China and it's better to win a medal in Bordeaux than in the other competitions," said Shuwang Wang, a Chinese exporter of Bordeaux wine since 1985 who took part as a taster this year.

Alex Rychlewski, American expat, long-time Bordeaux resident and wine-lover, has participated as a taster in the event for 25 years.

He said he relished the challenge of blind tasting and also wanted "to keep abreast of winemaking trends around the world and to support a part of Bordeaux that is consistently overlooked compared to more 'noble' appellations."

The competition originated with a handful of local winegrowers as a way to bring recognition to Bourg and Blaye, wine appellations with about 1,300 wine estates.

The two appellations remain relatively unknown, overshadowed by their illustrious cousins across the Gironde estuary in the Medoc and to the east in Saint Emilion.

"A significant percentage of the wines tasted are from modest, affordable Bordeaux appellations - the ones suffering most from the current crisis," Rychlewski told AFP.

"This gives such wines, that start out with a handicap, an opportunity to shine. By the same token, up-and-coming producers from other French regions or foreign countries can prove their worth."

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