China launches ambitious wine rating program

Judges on Bob Campbell MW’s panel (left to right) Leon, Frankie, Linda and Su (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

I’ve just spent a week in Shanghai tasting a small percentage of the wines on offer in China. It’s part of an extremely ambitious program by a new company called WineEvaluator that plans to rate every wine on sale in that country. If they are successful, every wine on will carry a sticker with a quality rating from one to ten. The sticker will also bear a QR code that the buyer or potential buyer can use to access a detailed tasting note compiled by an independent tasting panel, as well as the sort of production data you’d expect to find on back labels and producer websites.

We were advised by a senior member of the Chinese wine trade that there were an estimated one million different wines on sale in that country. To me that sounds a bit high, even considering different vintage dates, but whatever the number WineEvaluator has a mammoth task ahead of it.

I chaired one of five panels that tasted a combined total of over 700 wines in just under three days. We were all pretty happy with the result, although the organisers are now faced with the challenge of translating our details assessments from a very complex tasting sheet that evaluates 20 different aspects of each wine into language that will help wine consumers choose between bottle A and B.

There’s a growing interest in wine, fuelled by increasing affluent population. Wine consumers and potential wine consumers in China are very reliant on smartphones, tablets and computers. Rapid change in that country is often driven by Internet activity, a fact that’s not lost on the people behind WineEvaluator.

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