Fine Tea and Fine Wine: Why Chinese are only ever talking about Burgundy? 酒中國為什麼喜歡勃艮第葡萄酒
Editorial by Guillaume Jourdan
Beaune, 8 o'clock in the morning, streets start to live again. You already feel the agitation that will come during the next few days brought by the long expected Week end of the Hospices de Beaune Sale. It's cold outside and the only drink you dream about now is a great fine tea. A delicate and unique tea that will remind you of the rare and great bottles shared last night. Yes, Burgundy was right when they started communicating last year that great Burgundy wines are like great teas from China, Japan, India or other fabulous tea regions in the world.
I dream about this wonderful Wu Yi Rougui tasted a few years ago with two old men who were taking care of their tea plantations like Romanee Conti, Rousseau, Roumier or other great prestigious estates would take care of their estate vineyard. They were complaining about the incredible extension of this "appellation" in Northern Fujian of China over the last 20 years. Demand is high for this oolong tea which is highly regarded thanks to great names such as Bai Ji Guan, Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui and of course the famous Da Hong Pao. Red fruits and floral notes of this tea immediately evoke a great wine from "Cotes de Nuits". The Nose is very elegant and delicate like a great red Burgundy wine with a reasonable ageing would exhibit. Then these two old guys talk about "fermentation" and say that the best "rock teas", as we name these Wu Yi teas coming from rocky mountains, are 30-40% fermented. They explain this is a "real expression" of the teas from this region and that other ways of processing the tea leaves would not make a "perfect Wu Yi Rougui". In fact, it immediately reminded me of the long discussions with great winemakers in Burgundy talking about their own way to make their wines.
Then I continue walking in these streets of this wonderful city of Beaune and I ask myself if I would not prefer, right now, an expressive and exhuberant Bi luo chun...Is it for its incredibile fragrance of for its history that I would like to have it now? I don't know but this tea named Imperial Tribute Tea by the Qing Emperor has something that immediatly reminds me of the traditions and history behind Hospices de Beaune and Burgundy wines. This tea originating from the Jiang Su Province reminds me of a delicious white Chassagne Montrachet with a great refreshing palate that makes this cup (or glass) so exciting. In fact immediately you want to drink another cup and talk about it for hours. So many questions come to your mind: where are the tea plantations located? What kind of soil is it? What process did they use to make this tea so wonderful? All the questions you may also ask to winemakers you may meet at these 2011 Hospices de Beaune's sales. Fine Teas are so close to fine burgundy wines...no wonder why everybody, at the Wine Future Hong Kong 2011, was only ever talking about Burgundy. And no wonder why Burgundy soared (just check the evolution of Rousseau prices, really amazing !) as chinese buyers grabbed $69,000 cases at recent auctions in Hong Kong. Let's have a "Banc bourguignon" for them !
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