Asia briefing: China becoming known for a different kind of red
In December 2011, a panel of 10 wine experts found, in a blind tasting, that of a total of 10 wines made in Ningxia and Bordeaux in France, four out of the top five were Ningxia reds.
“Grape planting is now our main income,” said He Jingzhu, manager at Yu Quan International Chateau. “Thirty years ago this was all wasteland. We have a lot of sunshine here, we irrigate with waters from the Yellow River, and the land makes it very suitable for domestic planting. We can make three times from grapes what we make from corn.
“We imported grapes and now the wine industry makes very large profits, and we want to build a wine industry corridor all along here,” said Mr He.
The big domestic producers are all here -- Changyu, Great Wall, Dynasty and Grand Dragon – and foreign wineries are also finding their way here.
“It’s a great business for us. It’s a great area for growing wine. This is now recognised all over the world,” said Dong Laishun, manager at Xixiaking.
That’s true. In 2008, French drinks giant Pernod Ricard signed a contract with one of the earliest Ningxia vineyards, Helan Mountain, to produce wines targeting the growing Chinese wine market.
Before that Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and Ningxia State Farms Group had started co-operating with Xixiaking in making sparkling wines and champagnes.
In August, Chateau Changyu Moser XV, which is produced in Ningxia, became the first Chinese wine to be permanently stocked on the shelves of Berry Bros & Rudd, one of the most prestigious wine sellers in Europe.
Major domestic winemakers from other regions have also come to Ningxia, not only to expand their wine manufacturing but also for wine tourism.