Vintage Posts | Ningxia Winemakers Challenge 2012

NWC 2012 (from back left) Carl van der Merwe, S Africa, Eleni Papadakis, US, David Tyney, Australia, Jose Hernandez Gonzales, Spain, Patricia Miranda, Chile, NZ, Benoit Beigner, France, Penny Jones, Australia

In September of 2012, seven winemakers gathered to participate in the inaugural Ningxia Wine Challenge. The call to join this groundbreaking project went out in mid-July of that year and just ten weeks later the winemakers—Benoit Beigner of France, José Hernández González of Spain, Penny Jones of Australia, Patricia Miranda of Chile / New Zealand, Eleni Papadakis of the United States, David Tyney of Australia and Carl van der Merwe of South Africa—were on hand in the regional capital of Yinchuan.

‘Challenge’ turned out to be a highly appropriate word for the project. The winemakers were not only tasked with producing a wine to be judge by a panel of experts but also faced the toughest vintage in recent memory. They were also part of a first-of-its-kind project that had its share of growing pains.

Any qualms the organizers had about the project were immediately quelled as the seven winemakers brought with them a sense of adventure, vast experience from working in other regions, and a keenness to make wine.


Beigner, Papadakis, Tyney and Gonzalez check equipment in Ningxia.

Location, Location, Location | Ningxia in Five Maps


Plenty of people in the wine trade know about the up-and-coming wine region of Ningxia but some only vaguely know the location of this remote spot and its wineries, with “vaguely” defined as “somewhere in China”. Here is a look at the region via five maps.

Perhaps Ningxia is best described as being in north-central China although the region is often described as part of the “northwest” swath that extends through Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang and that has seen a rapid increase in wineries and vineyard coverage over the past decade.


Ningxia is 66,000 square kilometers, which makes it roughly the size of Ireland, and is roughly 800 kilometers west of Beijing. Its immediate neighbors are Gansu, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia, all of which also make grape wine.


As anyone who has flown across China knows, Ningxia is in an arid swath of the country. In the map above, you can see its capital city Yinchuan (the red pin) set in an oasis of green amid a range of browns and yellows.


Yinchuan is between the Helan Mountain range, which moderates the climate, and the Yellow River, an important source of irrigation water. The city has about two million inhabitants and has also seen rapid growth in recent years.


Not surprisingly, many vineyards are found between the mountains and river, including the eight on this map. They include family-owned Silver Heights, joint trade association-private investment project Helan Qing Xue, veteran Xi Xia King, large national producers Changyu and COFCO (which operates Chateau Yunmo) and foreign-invested projects Helan Mountain (Pernod Ricard), Chandon (Moet Hennessy) and Daylong.

Ningxia is unique in China for having so many wineries with different models, that for the most part make decent wine and that are in close proximity to each other, thus raising the prospects for tourism in the region.

Note: The first pair of maps are from Wikipedia, the second pair from Google Earth. The last map is from wine consultant Li Demei.

The New Ningxia Winemakers Challenge


ningxia winemakers challenge 2015 photo by grape wall of china.jjpg

September 2015

In three months,
the world’s winemakers
will travel to Ningxia
to practice their craft.

Will you be one of them?

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge FAQ Logo

Co-organizers of this event:

Ningxia Bureau
of Grape Industry
International Federation
of Vine and Wine of
Helan Mountain’s East Foothill

nwc (at)