Ningxia Wine Industry Info

Seeking info about Ningxia and wine? The posts below from sibling blog Grape Wall of China should helpfju until I have time to transition this site from a focus on the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge to the region in general.


The Three-day Tour

This whirlwind visit in May covered ten of Ningxia’s top wineries, from the country’s biggest producer to boutique operations, doing everything from Cabernet blends to first Marselan vintages to a focus on natural wine. Five photos for each winery, plus notes, from a tour with tasty grapes, great food and a guitar-playing winery owner.


Regional Analysis

Ningxia started getting attention about a half-dozen years ago. Here’s a piece I did for Wine Business International in 2015, right in the midst of that growth. Other posts in this list cover more recent changes.


Ningxia’s Secret Weapon

When the wine world talks of Ningxia, likely names to pop up include Emma Gao at Silver Heights (银色高地), Zhang Jing at Helan Qing Xue (贺兰晴雪) and Wang “Crazy” Fang atKanaan (迦南美地). They ooze personality, are fluent in English, and make good wines. But there are others who have played critical roles and are little-known beyond non-Chinese language circles. Ranking high among them is winemaker Zhou Shuzhen (周淑珍).


60 months, 60 photos

A stunning Loire-esque winery that pairs Changyu, China’s oldest and biggest producer, and Austrian wine family Moser opened in August of 2013, complete with a museum, cellar, tasting room, retail area, water fountain, sprawling grounds and more. Here are 60 photos taken during visits over the past five years.


Next-wave Marselan

There is growing buzz that Marselan (马瑟兰), a cross of Cabernet and Grenache, is destined to become “China’s grape”. Here’s a quick look at the latest vintage of this grape in Ningxia. Also check out World Marselan Day.


The Challengers

This two-year Ningxia Winemakers Challenge involved 48 contestants from 17 nations. Each was paired in 2015 with a local winery, awarded three hectares of grapes in a lottery and given a mission to make something special for judging in 2017, with USD100,000 in prizes. (Results here.) They learned much about Ningxia. Check out these Q&A sessions for their takes on the region, its grapes, its wines and its potential.


JR in NX

Jancis Robinson visited Ningxia in 2012 and co-chaired a 10-judge panel with Ma Huiqin that tasted 39 wines (results here). She also got on the road to check out many of Ningxia’s wineries, with some of that info ending up in the World Atlas of Wine.


Ningxia Winemakers Challenge I

The first Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, from 2012 to 2014, involved contestants from seven nations. You can also get some insights into the wine situation in those years via these Q&A sessions with Ma Huiqin, a professor with extensive experience in the region, Zhang Jing of Helan Qing Xue, Emma Gao of Silver Heights, Craig Grafton, then with the Pernod Ricard operation Helan Mountain), and Lilian Carter, a previous winemaker with Helan Mountain.


Ningxia vs Bordeaux

A 2011 contest in Beijing pitted five Bordeaux wines with five made using Ningxia grapes. Each wine fell into a similar price range in China and the goal was to show consumers which one the experts—five French and five Chinese—scored highest. Check out the results here, responses to any ideas the contest was unfair here, and more about what the judges liked here.

See the Ningxia category on Grape Wall for even more posts, including about Lebron James trying Ningxia wine, the region’s roving wine-bottling unit and the summer it discovered disease really could be a problem. I’ll also put together some other reports about Ningxia and post those soon.

Full 60 Finalists

Mariana Silvina Páez, Argentina
Bodega El Porvenir de Cafayate

Cesar Gastón Sepúlveda, Argentina
South Australian Research Development Institute

Dario Burgos, Argentina
Familia Benegas Winery

Juan Esteban Pina, Argentina
Grupo Peñaflor

Pablo Laborde, Argentina
Bodega Calle

Neville Hudson, Australia
Nangari Wine Consulting

Mike Gadd, Australia
Stella Bella Wines

Joanna Kate Marsh, Australia
Billy Button Wines

Meg Brodtmann, Australia
Southern Cross Wines

Chris Sargeant, Australia
Terindah Estate

Kelly Pearson, Australia
KRSMA Estates

Stephen McEwen, Australia
Grupo Penaflor Argentina

Paul Gobell, Australia
Pernod Ricard

Mathew Kirby, Australia
Clearview Estate

Tony Kallaske, Australia

Kallaske Wines

Mathias Regner, Austria
Weingut Regner

Manuella Webber Witt, Brazil / Italy
Henkell & Co. Sektkellerei

Alexander Velianov, Bulgaria
Babich Wines

Maria Isabel Tapia Inzulza, Chile

Jacqueline Lizama Salazar, Chile
Matua Wines

Jose Ignacio Hernández Rufs, Chile
Wine at Source

Pierre Viala, France
Viña Santa Andrea

Jens Merkle, German
Babich Wines

Parikshit Pramod Teldhune, India
Vintage Wines

Priyanka Kulkarni, India

Stefano Guidi, Italian / German
Heron’s Flight

Alessio Fortunato, Italy
North West Agriculture and Forestry University

Denise Cosentino, Italy
North West Agriculture and Forestry University

Gianpaolo Paglia, Italy
Poggio Argentiera

Enrico Bragantini, Italy
Foley Family Wines

Leonardo Ricardez, Mexico
Indevin

Mauricio Ruiz Cantu, Mexico
Pernod Ricard

Vadim Burunsus, Moldova
Cricova S.A

Peter Bristow, New Zealand
Pernod Ricard

Spring Timlin, New Zealand
Treasury Wine Estates

Steve Simpson, New Zealand
Foley Family Wines

Peter Mackey, New Zealand
Stefani Estate winery

Jennifer Bound, New Zealand
Purple Hen Winery

Andrew Powley, New Zealand
Telford

Glenn James, New Zealand / Australia
Winemaking Tasmania

Joel Santos, Portugal
Tim Adams Wines

Carsten Migliarina,  South Africa
Migliarina

Alwyn Liebenberg,  South Africa
Lieben Wines

Justin Corrans, South Africa
Separator Technology Solutions

Elena Alejos Omedas, Spain

Ana María Pecero Francés, Spain
Crabtree

Ruben Rodriguez, Spain/Australia
Huntington Estate Wines

Slavina Stefanova, Sweden
Château de Lignane

Stuart Rusted, UK
Wolf Blass

Matthew van der Spuy, UK
Spring Creek Vintners

Sarah Williams, UK
International Consultant

Nova Cadamatre, United States
Constellation Brands

Dominic O’Reilly, United States
Topa Mountain Winery

Brian Cheeseborough, United States
Chateau Morrisette

Brent Trela, United States
Alert Aesthetics

Chris Chang, United States
Nine Suns

48 Winemakers, 18 Nations | Unprecedented Wine Contest Starts in China

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An unprecedented viticultural–and cultural–project has started in the Ningxia region where 48 winemakers from 18 nations will practice their craft as part of a contest with more than USD110,000 in prizes.

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge is a two-year project organized by the region’s wine federation with support from its bureau of grape industry development. Each visiting winemaker has been partnered with a local winery and assigned a three-hectare plot of grapes to make wine.

With nationalities spanning Argentine to Australian, Italian to Indian and South African to Swedish, the winemakers trickled into the region over several weeks until everyone was on hand on September 20. That day, each winemaker was partnered with a winery via a lottery system, followed by a second draw to decide which plot each team would use from a collective vineyard.

The next day, the teams visited the collective vineyard, many of them picking grapes for lab analysis. They were generally positive about the grapes, which were far superior to those used in a 2012 contest with seven winemakers.

The winemakers also began leaving the hotel where they had stayed and headed for accommodations provided by their partner wineries. It quickly became evident their experiences would vastly vary. Some wineries are near the capital of Yinchuan, others are over 100 kilometers away. Some have all the needed equipment, others will require sourcing and creativity. In terms of accommodations, the range is from spartan to the five-star hotel.

Most winemakers will stay for about 20 days, with additional visits to come over the next two years. The wines will be judged in the fall of 2017. At that time, wines scoring in the top 10 percent will be awarded rmb100,000 each while the next 20 percent get rmb20,000 each. Winemakers are also entitled to 2,000 bottles of their wine.

Suffice it to say, the wine world has never witnessed a contest like this. It symbolizes the spirit of a region growing by leaps and bounds. Virtually unknown five years ago, Ningxia has emerged as one of the planet’s most intriguing places, with wines winning praise from critics like Jancis Robinson, Michel Bettane, Thierry Dessauve and Jeremy Oliver and recognition from contests like the Decanter World Wine Awards and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

Wine grape vineyard coverage has grown more than ten fold in Ningxia since 2003, to nearly 40,000 hectares, and the number of approved operations now stands at 72 wineries, according to government officials, with more growth planned. The region has also reached out to the world by joining the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), by sending fact-finding delegations to wine regions in Argentina, Australia, France and New Zealand, and by organizing events like harvest festivals, trade fairs and the Ningxia Winemakers Challenges.

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The ceremony in Ningxia for pairing wineries and winemakers.

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Teams check the location of their plots in the collective vineyard.

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Checking fruit quality and collecting grapes for lab analysis.

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The candidates visit Changyu Moser XV.

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And taste wine in the events room at Yuanshi winery.

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NWC candidates appear on China’s national network CCTV.

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The candidates share wines they brought to Ningxia.

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And try Ningxia wines to get a sense of local tastes.


The 48 NWC Candidates

Pablo Laborde, Argentina

Mariana Páez, Argentina

Juan Pina, Argentina

Cesar Gastón Sepúlveda, Argentina

Mike Gadd, Australia

Paul Gobell, Australia

Tony Kallaske, Australia

Mathew Kirby, Australia

Joanna Marsh, Australia

Stephen McEwen, Australia

Kelly Pearson, Australia

Chris Sargeant, Australia

Mathias Regner, Austria

Alexander Velianov, Bulgaria

Jose Hernández, Chile

Jacqueline Lizama, Chile

Maria Tapia, Chile

Pierre Viala, France

Priyanka Kulkarni, India

Parikshit Teldhune, India

Denise Cosentino, Italy

Alessio Fortunato, Italy

Gianpaolo Paglia, Italy

Mauricio Ruiz Cantu, Mexico

Leonardo Ricardez, Mexico

Vadim Burunsus, Moldova

Peter Bristow, New Zealand

Jennifer Bound, New Zealand

Glenn James, New Zealand / Australia

Peter Mackey, New Zealand

Andrew Powley, New Zealand

Steve Simpson, New Zealand

Spring Timlin, New Zealand

Joel Santos, Portugal

Justin Corrans, South Africa

Alwyn Liebenberg, South Africa

Carsten Migliarina, South Africa

Elena Alejos, Spain

Ana Pecero, Spain

Ruben Rodriguez, Spain/Australia

Slavina Stefanova, Sweden

Stuart Rusted, UK

Matthew van der Spuy, UK

Sarah Williams, UK

Nova Cadamatre, United States

Chris Chang, United States

Brian Cheeseborough, United States

Brent Trela, United States