Two types of wine made from Taiwan-grown grapes took gold medals at the 26th Vinalies Internationales Competition held from Feb. 29 to March 4 in Paris.
The two products, made from black queen muscat and golden muscat cultivated in Taichung, central Taiwan, each won the highest honor in the red wine and white wine categories in the event hosted annually by the organization.
It was the first time that Taiwan-made wine grabbed the top prize in both categories in the renown wine-tasting competition, in which 2,959 brands of wine produced in 45 countries competed this year.
Chen Chien-hao (陳千浩), an assistant professor with National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism who graduated from Universite de Bourgogne in France, made one of the winning Taiwanese wine with his expertise and ambition to help Taiwan shine on the world stage.
"It is clear proof that Taiwan can make world-class wine with locally cultivated (grapes)," Chen told CNA.
Chen Chien-hao (center)
As a result of a monopoly system in Taiwan, the private sector was prohibited from producing alcoholic beverages for almost 80 years, making wine-making a relatively backward business in Taiwan, Chen said.
After the monopoly system was removed in January 2002, the almost vanishing industry regained vigor in recent years with the participation of private wine makers, he explained.
"This not only can make greater use of local agricultural produce, but can also add a high value to them, allowing Taiwan to win international exposure," he said.
With the help from the Agriculture and Food Agency, Chen started to make wine in 2005, simulating the way how brandy is distilled.
"After five years of heat distillation, only half of the wine inside the barrel, or 100 liters, would remain ... and that is the reason why the grape wine I made is full of many layers of fruit and honey flavor," Chen said.
Chen has been co-producing the black queen muscat and golden muscat wine with Taichung-based Hung Estate, which has dedicated itself to the cultivation of grapes for more than half a century.
Through the cooperation, Hung Estate has also transformed itself into a quality wine brewer, Chen said.
He added that they plan to produce different types of wine by taking advantage of Taiwan's fine rice and fruit to diversify its image on the global stage.
Vinalies Internationales is the organisation behind a number of international wine competitions, both in France and elsewhere. It is supported by VinoFed (La Federation Mondiale des Grands Concours Internationaux de Vins et de Spiritueux), the OIV (l'Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin) and the UIOE (Union Internationale des Oenologues), its website said.
Each year, more than 100 judges from all over the planet gather in Paris, with the single goal of assessing around 3,000 wine samples submitted to the competition. Each wine is given a detailed set of tasting notes, and a score which will ultimately decide which medal (if any) it is awarded.