Note: Before applying for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, I strongly recommend you read through this entire post. You can find the application form at this link.
What is the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge?
The Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, or NWC, is a project that will fund up to 60 foreign winemakers to practice their craft in Ningxia this September and compete for cash prizes totaling RMB840,000 (EUR120,000 / USD135,000).
The contest is being organized by the International Federation of Vine and Wine of Helan Mountain’s East Foothill, with support from Ningxia’s Bureau of Grape Industry Development.
This is the second NWC. The first, launched in 2012, involved seven winemakers from Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and The United States. That project finished in 2014 when the participants’ wines were judged in Beijing by a panel of experts. Cash prizes of rmb190,000 were awarded.
This new NWC will be on a far larger scale and officially launch on September 20.
Who is eligible to apply?
The NWC is open to all foreign winemakers, except for those who currently work in the Ningxia wine industry or participated in 2012. A separate contest is being considered for those winemakers.
The NWC is ideal for people who want to learn about one of the world’s most promising regions, Ningxia, where the wines have already earned praise in China and abroad, including from Jancis Robinson, Michel Bettane, Thierry Dessauve, Jeremy Oliver and Decanter Magazine, among others.
NWC participants will taste Ningxia wines, meet local winemakers, and learn about the region’s cuisine, culture and history. They will also no doubt attract media attention and attend dinners with government officials, winery managers and fellow winemakers.
This project is suited to people who seek both a professional and cultural adventure.
How are the winemakers selected?
Interested winemakers must apply using the online form (click here). The application process is from June 22 to July 17. The successful candidates will be announced about a week later.
All applications will be evaluated. As in 2012, the organizers will draw on recommendations from a panel of judges with China wine experience. In 2012, they included Mihalis Boutaris of Greece, Lilian Carter of Australia, Li Demei of China, Liz Thach of the United States and Mireia Torres of Spain, all of whom have made wine in China or regularly visited the country.
When the panel is undecided about a candidate, the person who submitted his or her application first will be chosen. Thus, applying early does provide some advantages.
What is expected of the winemakers?
The winemakers must be in Ningxia on September 20. This is typically the time harvest starts. They will stay for at least 15 days and be on hand for grape selection and fermentation. They are also welcome to visit for the annual harvest festival on September 7.
During their time in Ningxia, they will not only make wine but also tour wineries and vineyards, meet local winemakers and visit tourist attractions.
The winemakers will return to Ningxia at least once over a two-year period, for between five to fifteen days, to manage their wines. The winemakers can make up to three visits per year, although these must be coordinated with the competition organizers. The costs of these visits will be covered by the organizers.
The NWC will finish in the fall of 2017 when the wines are judged and the cash prizes are awarded.
Where will the winemakers get grapes and equipment?
Each winemaker will made a red wine using grapes from the same vineyard. Each winemaker will source from an area of about three hectares.
The organizers and participating wineries will provide equipment. In some cases, the winemakers will be able to request specific materials, such as a certain toast level for their barrels. The organizers will endeavor to grant as many requests as is feasible.
How will expenses be handled?
Transportation, hotel accommodation and group meal costs for the winemakers will be paid by the organizers. Flights will be economy class. Winemakers are expected to cover their own health insurance.
The winemakers will not be paid while in Ningxia. The wines they make will, however, be entered into a contest in 2017 with up to rmb840,000 in cash prizes.
Each wine that scores in the top 10 percent in that contest will receive a gold medal and RMB100,000. Each wine that scores in the next 20 percent will receive a silver medal and RMB20,000. The total amount of money depends on the number of participating winemakers. This chart gives three examples:
What happens to the wine?
Each winemaker will be entitled to approximately 2,000 bottles of the wine that he or she makes. The bureau will work with winemakers on a case-by-case basis to decide how to handle the wine, whether this means shipping it to an agreed upon address overseas or selling it here in China.
Note: Check this website regularly for updates on the Ningxia Wine Challenge and about the region, including info on wines, wineries, hotels, tourists sites and more. For queries, contact Jim Boyce via nwc (at) ningxiawineguide.com.