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Top ‘bullish’ wines for Chinese Year of Ox
21-Jan-2021 By Natalie Wang
After a year of anxiety and loss in 2020, like us you are probably eager to turn a new page as we are about to usher into Year of Ox on February 12. The second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox is traditionally interpreted to represent hard work, diligence and honesty.
Marketing-savvy merchants with a close eye on China each year would release special Chinese zodiac collections as Chinese New Year is normally the biggest and most important gifting season.
In Year of Goat, Bordeaux first growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild became one of the most sought-after brands among wine connoisseurs for its goat emblem and special releases with a ram-themed label. When it comes to Year of Rooster, interest would pick for Chianti for the Italian wine region’s black rooster emblem.
It’s safe to say in the Year of Ox, wines that celebrate and honor bull or ox are expected to stand out from retail shelves. Therefore, we have rounded up top “bullish” wines from France, Italy, Spain and Australia to ring in upcoming Chinese New Year.
The famous Italian red wine with a white bull might be the most on-the-nose choice for Chinese drinkers who are looking for vulpine related bottles to ring in the Year of Ox. This red wine from Avignonesi, Italy’s biggest biodynamic winery in Tuscany’s Montepulciano, pays tribute to the region’s majestic white bull called Desiderio, meaning “desire” in Italian.
The bull reportedly lived on Avignonesi’s Capezzine farm more than one hundred years ago. The largest bull in Tuscany at that time, this majestic animal helped define the Chianina cattle race, specific to the Bistecca Fiorentina. It’s also one of the oldest breeds of cattle in existence dating back to over 2,000 years, and is known for its sweet temperament, resistance to heat.
Therefore, the winery decided to dedicate the 100% Merlot wine to the bull. The latest vintage on the market is 2017.
To celebrate 2021 Chinese New Year, Champagne Billecart-Salmon has created an exclusive Limited Edition design for its Brut Rosé, the iconic cuvée of the house, with a Chinese Gongbi 工笔 painting Rui Niu Wang Chun ‘瑞牛旺春’, which means ‘an auspicious ox looking forward to spring’ in Chinese.
The House of Billecart-Salmon invited Chinese artist Lin Ke to create the painting for the special release. Speaking of the collaboration, Lin says, “I created this poetic interpretation of the upcoming spring with Brut Rose’s technique and cultural history at heart. Every detail in this painting represents the wisdom and natural beauty in Chinese culture, which embodies the essence of Billecart-Salmon: pursuit of excellence and perfection.”
Bin 389 was often referred to as ‘Baby Grange’, in part because components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange.
First made in 1960 by Penfolds’ first and legendary winemaker Max Schubert, this was the wine that helped forge Penfolds reputation with red wine drinkers by combining the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with the richness of Shiraz.
This release in 2020 commemorates the 60th anniversary since Bin 389 was first made. It’s also released in magnum in special packaging for Chinese Year of Ox.
The wine is rated 98 points by Andrew Caillard MW and 97 vpoints by JamesSuckling.com.
The American cult wine based in Ventura California once made a few vintages of Pinot Noir sourced from Oregon, one of which as we figure will certainly garner some extra interest this year among Chinese collectors.
Created by husband and wife team Manfred & Elaine Krankl, the estate is known for its Rhone blends, but for eight vintages, it ventured out of its comfort zone and flirted with Pinot Noir. One of the now defunct operation was the 1999 Pinot Noir made from grapes sourced from Shea Vineyards in Oregon.
The vintage which is named ‘Ox’ is now a collectible and is making rounds in auctions, as the Krankls have decided to discontinue Pinot Noir production, making its 2005 vintage the last bottling of the varietal. The last vintage is also aptly called “Over and Out”.
First made in 1954, Sangre de Toro is the first bottled release from Spanish wine giant Torres. Each of the bottle design features a red bull, which honors its home country, Spain, known for its bull fighting, and is of course topical for Chinese Year of Ox.
The wine was created by Miguel Torres Carbó (third generation family member) who searched through Catalonia to find the best grapes for Sangre de Toro, now a popular everyday wine. He eventually selected Garnacha and Cariñena tto create a fruit forward and approachable red.
Given its approachable price points, we reckon the red wine might be passed around at many dinner tables during the festive season.
Auswan Creek, the Australian red wine invested by Chinese-Australian entrepreneur Li Wei, did not miss a beat to launch a commemorative gift box set for Year of Ox. The set includes a 1.5L magnum of Merlot and a matching handbag too.
The wine label features a golden ox for good luck and fortune.
The winery, being the third largest Australian wine exporter to China, is lacking some at the moment as China slapped two rounds of punitive tariffs on Australian wines.
The gift set retails for AU$99 in Australia.
Australian winery Chateau Tanunda in Barossa released a special bottling of its 2018 vintage Shiraz to celebrate its three centuries of winemaking and the upcoming Year of Ox.
Established in 1890, the winery released the 1.5L magnum-only Shiraz for the historical milestone. This special edition Grand Barossa wine celebrates 2021 and the year of the Ox, with both hosting and gifting in mind.
This is classic Barossa Shiraz that shows the classic flavor profile of dark plum, blackberry, exotic spice and toast.
The wine sells for AU$79 a bottle.
ST. Hallett Mighty Ox Shiraz 2018
The Mighty Ox is one of the new wines released by St Hallett winery in 2020, as we have reported.
It is sourced from vineyards planted in the parishes of Ebenezer, Greenock and Moppa Hills in the north west of the Barossa Valley at elevations between 250m and 310m above sea level.
Like a few of the celebratory bottlings, the wine is only released in 1.5 L magnums and under cork, which is preferred by Chinese drinkers. It’s a full bodied, luscious and powerful wine.
It retails for Au$225 a bottle.