- Gordon Dumoulin
Ningxia wine region; innovating, intriguing with own identity | DIFFERENT CHINA (ep 1)
Ningxia wine region; a welcoming impulse to the future of the wine world
open-minded, innovative, managed by women, self-will, unique identity
The wine region at the Helan Mountains range in Ningxia Autonomous Region situates at the edge of the Gobi desert in the central North of China, approximately 1000km west of Beijing. The region is rapidly gaining an international reputation as the “Bordeaux region of China.” In fact, in recent blind wine-tasting competitions, the Ningxia wines have done even better than Bordeaux Wines in the same price range. This tasting will showcase the diversity and potential of this region’s still red, still white and sparkling wines, in addition to its famous Bordeaux Blend style reds.
Ningxia has the best terroir for wine production in China, compared to Xinjiang where the sugar accumulates too fast and Yantai where grapes struggle to ripen. Ningxia offers the climatic condition that helps to achieve the best phenolic ripeness while avoiding the sugar level going too high. The biggest advantage is the absence of phylloxera, thus there is no need to use American rootstock, which restrains the expression of grape characters. There is the hope of being able to produce the most terroir driven wine here without the pressure from pests and diseases. The western wineries admire the Ningxia for this condition.
Apart from the giants such as Moet Hennesy and Pernod Ricard who have significantly invested during recent years in the Ningxia wine region, one of the most interesting aspects of Ningxia is that the region holds a growing number of most enthusiastic and young Chinese wine makers, who are open-minded, internationally educated, perky and love to embrace innovation.
Biodynamic winery, Domaine des Arômes has made the first organic wine in Ningxia (and China), their production is 100% biodynamic. Their wine makers are a young couple graduated from Burgundy. Sun Miao from Domaine des Arômes mentions in an interview ; "We only hope to make pure, authentic and natural Chinese wine. It can be imperfect, but it must speak of our own land and people. My husband and I continue to believe that perfection is not necessarily the be-all and end-all. For us, to adapt to the natural environment and allow wines to improve over time is enough." See picture of working on their estate.
Other enthusiastic, young and often family-owned wine makers in Ningxia are Silver Heights winery by Mrs. Emma Gao, Kanaan winery by Mrs. Wang Fang, often called “Crazy Fang” (see Mrs. Wang Fang in her wine cellar in picture below) and Helan Qing Xue by Mr. Rong Jian (see their wine tasting room in picture at the side). All these wineries have been newly established during the past decade though often with a familial history in wine making. The (grand)parents are still wandering the vineyards in the very early mornings. Each of their stories is unique in the development of their vineyards and wines.
It is also remarkable and wonderful to see the number of women leading and managing in the Ningxia wineries with strong focus on organic and biodynamic.
At the moment there are about 200 wineries operational in the Ningxia wine region and last year the Ningxia Helan Mountain East and International Wine Association (宁夏贺兰山东麓葡萄与葡萄酒国际联合会) has launched a winery classification system which qualified the wineries in Ningxia’s Helan Mountains wine region into five growths (similar to Bordeaux’s 1855 classification) with the first growth being of the highest quality.
Ningxia wine region; a welcoming impulse to the future of the wine world.
“Different CHINA” is a series telling different sides of China which are lesser known to the world. China is well known through many publications for its miraculous speed of developments and growth in technology, environment, commerce, social structures and international standing with Chinese people embracing innovation while keeping tradition highly valued. But this image does not do full justice as China is so much more in its diversity, culture, environment, people and initiatives. “Different CHINA” is part of 5iZ.
Sources : Ms.Zhang Jinglin, a Vinitaly International Academy certified VIA Expert, www.thedrinksbusiness.com, www.sixthtone.com, www.ningxiawineguide.com, www.grapewallofchina.com, www.vinous.com