Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chinese Gold

With the Vancouver Winter Games in full swing now, we're settling into our own Olympian task of drinking bottles of wine from countries that won gold medals the previous day. After a couple of false starts, Boo and I managed to find a morning where we could head down to - and actually get in - the Canadian Mint pavilion to see and hold the medals first hand.

It truly was fascinating. The story behind the production and technology of the medals was captivating and the medals are strikingly beautiful. There were a number of firsts involved in the creation of the medals - such as the undulating shape - that posed enough hurdles and challenges to the production team that you're left with the thought that the team deserves their own award of merit.

While the accomplishment of and memory of winning a medal at the Olympics must live with an athlete forever, these medals will hopefully prove to be a physical reminder of the beauty, dedication and hard work behind that victory. The medals themselves should be seen as pieces of art and I loved the fact that each medal is, in fact, a small portion of a larger piece of art. If it were possible for one athlete to win every gold medal available at the Winter Games, he or she could piece them all together to re-create Corinne Hunt's West Coast aboriginal representation of the orca.

These Olympic wanderings didn't allow for the sipping of wine, but our bottle today - yet. Later on though, we had a bottle lined up that was chosen to honour the Chinese Pairs Figure Skating couples that won both the gold and silver medals yesterday.

366. 2005 Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon (China)

Finding a Chinese wine - even in Vancouver and its large Chinese population- isn't necessarily the easiest thing to do. Although I'd seen Great Wall represented at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival in years past, I only found this bottle at the provincial Signature shop at Cambie and 41st. In reading up a bit about this wine, I was quite enthralled with the whole topic of Chinese wine. I could go on for awhile with facts that I found interesting, but time won't allow that here.

I will say that China appears to be posed to became the largest consumer of wine in the world. Although historical references to wine date back to ancient times, the modern production of wine in China started in the 1980's. Average consumption in the country is still less than half a bottle a year, but the economic boom that China has experienced, from 2000 onwards, has resulted in a huge increase of disposable income for many - and wine sales have been a major beneficiary.

A few large companies dominate the domestic production of wine in the country and COFCO's Great Wall is one of them. The company offers 100 different products, including dry to sweet and fortified to sparkling and distilled. Great Wall has the highest value of exports of any Chinese winery and was the exclusive provider of wine to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - kind of fitting when you consider the nature of this blog entry.

Great Wall has even been served to President Obama during a political state dinner.

My guess is that it wasn't this bottle though. Trying the Great Wall Cab was more of a curiosity than a "must." The wine didn't offer any real structure or complexity, but that being said, even though we didn't finish off the bottle that night, we didn't pour it down the sink either. I don't think it's out of line to say the quality of the Chinese skaters far out-scored the taste of the wine.

I will admit, however, that our glass of the Great Wall helped finish off the night - after our share of beer at the Molson Canadian Hockey House. Our palates may have been a tad impaired after the suds, but not enough that we couldn't get a true first impression of the wine.

Interestingly, while Boo, my Dad, and I were walking over to Hockey House, we wandered past Russia House and we noticed a bit of a crowd amassing around some official vehicles. Turns out it was the Russian pairs skaters that finished fourth to the Chinese.

Hockey House was both a shrine to hockey and to beer. I don't even know if there was a glass (let alone a bottle) of wine to be found. I wouldn't have expected anything less with Molson's at the helm, but I'm going include a couple of pictures just because it gives a bit of an insight of how the city has caught Olympic Fever. We saw Vancouver's own Maelle Ricker win a gold medal inWomen's Snowboard Cross and the thousand or two folks at this overgrown beer garden went wild.

But not even that excitement could hold a candle to the craziness that accompanied the Canadian Men's 8-0 win over Norway over at the hockey rink. No one was kidding themselves about Norway being a hockey power, but that didn't matter to the folks in a sea of red. I've never seen so many Canada jerseys, shirts or hats in one place. If you weren't wearing red, you could pretty well be assured that the person next to you was.

Dad, Boo and I headed home pretty much as soon as the game was over - although I know that the party was going to rock for many hours to come. I turned to them and said that, if you added up our three ages, I doubted you could find another three people on site that had a higher collective age.

I think I used to be that young once. It was at least a couple of years ago though. It was time to head out, especially since there was a bottle of Chinese wine calling out for us at home.

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