Finalists for Ningxia Winemakers Challenge

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge 2015 to 2017 Tractor Driving Through Vineyard

There were just over 140 application for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge. The judges received each application in a standard format, covering work experience, education and essays on topics such as reasons for applying, wine-making philosophies, favorite grapes and proudest achievements. The goal: to create a qualified, intriguing and diverse group. Given this, both work background and essay questions were useful.

Judges scored the applications out of 20 points, with each application evaluated three times. Here is a brief description of the categories:

18-20 Extraordinary
Strong wine-making background, solid application answers and a compelling story. A “wow” candidate. (About 10 percent of candidates)

15-17 Excellent
Strong wine-making and other experience. They should easily be able to handle making wine in Ningxia. (About 20 percent of candidates)

12-14 Good
Industry experience and reasonably good answers. They should generally be able to handle NWC.

9-11 Acceptable
Not enough experience or background to excel but would be okay should spaces be available.

6-8 Borderline
Experience, background or application answers suggest they would endure many difficulties if chosen.

0-5 Unready
Experience and background irrelevant.

We automatically accepted any candidate with two or more “extraordinary” scores (18-20 points each), three “excellent” scores (15-17 points each) or an “excellent” average (a total of 45 points or more from the three judges). There were 42 candidates who qualified under this criteria.

The 18 remaining candidates were chosen primarily on score. Where scores were close or, in a few cases, where the score of one judge widely diverged from the other two, I conferred with Professor Ma Huiqin, who also participated in the selection NWC process in 2012 and who consults for the Ningxia government.

Of the 60 finalists, 48 ultimately arrived in Yinchuan to participate in the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge:

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

The competition for the 60 positions was strong in terms of the quantity and quality of the candidates. It’s fair to say that dozens of intriguing applicants just missed the cut and will hopefully be involved in future Ningxia projects.

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge panel

A list of final candidates for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge has been created, with six judges evaluating the 140 applications for the project. Each judge has links to China and, of course, wine-making.

In alphabetical order, from left to right: German Berra, Nicolas Billot-Grima, Andrew Caillard, Judy Chan, Amy Lee, Teresa Shieh

In alphabetical order, from left to right: German Berra, Nicolas Billot-Grima, Andrew Caillard, Judy Chan, Amy Lee, Tersina Shieh

German Berra is head winemaker at Finca Flichman in Mendoza and a professor of Viticulture at Universidad Maza. He toured Ningxia’s last year and, in return, hosted a Ningxia delegation in Argentina.

Nicolas Billot-Grima of consultancy F2CV has been active in China since his first wine-making stint at Huadong in Shandong in the late 1990’s and was a key part of the Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard project in Hebei.

Andrew Caillard is a Master of Wine, consultant with Woolworths, and co-founder of Langton’s wine auctions. He is co-producer of China wine documentary Red Obsession, a producer of Barossa wine and has visited wineries in China.

Judy Chan is CEO of Grace Vineyard in Shanxi, arguably China’s most successful winery, and a regular member of “most influential” lists of wine people. Grace Vineyard is a Harvard Business School case study.

Amy Lee has 20 years of China experience as national sales director for Tonnellerie ERMITAGE and, prior to that, importer Montrose. She is owner and winemaker at Rocky Point Cellars in Williamette Valley

Tersina Shieh is a Hong Kong-based marketer turned winemaker who has joined harvests in Ningxia and Shandong as well as in other countries. She is a wine writer, judge and event organizer.

Each judge was asked to evaluate 70 applicants out of 20 points.

Apply Now | New Ningxia Winemakers Challenge

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge 2015 to 2017 Tractor Driving Through Vineyard

Applications opened at noon today for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, a project that will fund up to 60 foreign winemakers to visit Ningxia, practice their craft and compete for cash prizes up to RMB840,000 (EUR120,000 / USD135,000).

Co-organized by the International Federation of Vine and Wine of Helan Mountain’s East Foothill, with support from the region’s Grape Industry Development Bureau, the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge expands on a 2012 project that involved seven winemakers from Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and The United States. A panel of experts awarded those wines RMB190,000 in Beijing last August, with David Tyney of Australia taking top spot.

“This Ningxia Winemakers Challenge will be much bigger than the one in 2012,” says Li Xueming, director of the bureau. “This time the region will fund up to 60 winemakers to visit Ningxia, nearly ten times as many as in 2012. This growth in the project mirrors the fast development of the Ningxia wine industry over the past three years.”

The application period for the NWC is from June 22 to July 17. (See this link for the application form.) As in 2012, a panel of experts with China wine trade experience will help determine the successful applicants. 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.

Up to sixty successful applicants will travel to Ningxia for the launch of the project on September 20. They will stay for a minimum of 15 days to select grapes, oversee fermentation, and learn more about the region’s wine industry and culture. The organizers will fund the cost of meals and transportation as well as accommodation in Yinchuan, the regional capital.

The wines made during the NWC will be evaluated by a panel of experts in 2017. Those that score in the top 10 percent will each be awarded a gold medal and RMB100,000 in cash, while those in the next 20 percent will each receive a silver medal and RMB20,000. The organizers plan to give each winemaker several thousand bottles of the wine he or she makes.