Meet the Candidates | Chris Sargeant of Australia

October 7, 2015 // 0 Comments

Chris Sargeant of Australia is one of 48 candidates from 18 nations participating in the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, a two-year program that officially started on September 20 and pairs each winemaker with a local winery. I asked about his experience so far. You’ve been in Ningxia for about two weeks now. Have you tried the mutton? [Note: To those unfamiliar with the region, it is nearly impossible to go a few days let alone a few weeks without having mutton.] Half the time, I’m not all that sure what I’m eating! But, yes I have had the mutton and it was succulent and […]

Meet the candidates | Maria Isabel Tapia of Chile

September 30, 2015 // 0 Comments

Maria Isabel Tapia of Chile is one of 48 candidates who traveled to China this month for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, a two-year project that pairs foreign winemakers with local wineries to practice their craft and compete for rmb700,000 in cash prizes. Her partner is Xin Niu Winery / 新牛酒庄. I asked Tapia, who has done harvests in Australia, New Zealand, The United States and Canada, about her first ten days in Ningxia. What was your flight pattern to Ningxia? From Oliver in the Okanagan Valley to Vancouver to Beijing to Yinchuan. Initial thoughts about Ningxia’s wine industry? The good thing is people here […]

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

September 29, 2015 // 0 Comments

By Jim Boyce An unprecedented viticultural–and cultural–experiment is underway in the Ningxia region of China where 48 winemakers from 18 nations are practicing their craft as part of a contest with over USD110,000 in cash prizes. (See list of candidates below.) The Ningxia Winemakers Challenge is a two-year project organized by the region’s wine federation with support from the grape industry development bureau. Each of the 48 winemakers has been teamed 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 […]

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge | First visit paired with start of Riesling harvest at Kanaan

September 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

Six of the winemakers who will join the Ningxia Wine Challenge, which officially starts on September 20, got their first taste of the region when they headed to Kanaan today to try some wines and witness the pressing of the first batch of Riesling from this year’s crop. That initial batch of fruit weighed 800 kilograms and there is much more to come, says winery manager Wang Fang. The winemakers, who hail from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Sweden and The United States, also tried four Kanaan wines: a Riesling, a semi-sweet white blend, an entry-level red under the name “Wild Pony“, and a Cabernet-Merlot known […]

Ningxia Wine Challenge II | The Finalists Start to Arrive

September 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

One month ago, 60 finalists were picked for the second Ningxia Winemakers Challenge (see here), a project in which I am involved. While the challenge, which has a prize pool of rmb840,000 this time around, officially starts on September 20, a half-dozen winemakers arrived in the capital city of Yinchuan today to take part in the Ningxia wine festival. Over the next few days, they will tour wineries and vineyards, meet officials and trade people, try plenty of wines and no doubt get their fill of mutton during the next few days, and I’ll put up a few posts about those activities. Expect even […]

Status symbols | Are MWs the new Lafite in China?

September 5, 2015 // 0 Comments

Those times when a Master of Wine visited China for a tasting or dinner or other event and criticized the fascination some consumers in this nation have with Lafite? Oh, irony. Thou art generous. The claim is people in China have typically bought Lafite as a status symbol–for the label–and have little appreciation of the wine inside the bottle. I’d say this is the same reason they typically invite a Master of Wine. They see them as status symbols–with the MW label replacing Lafite or other brand–and have little appreciation of the people holding that qualification. Take fictional wine expert Pat Smith, who consults and writes and […]

Turning Ten | Helan Qing Xue in Ningxia Marks a Decade of Making Wine

September 4, 2015 // 0 Comments

Helan Qing Xue is marking its tenth anniversary this month, marking a decade during which it and fellow wineries like Silver Heights and Helan Mountain have helped put the Ningxia region on the world wine map. And it’s still going strong. I tried several newer HQX wines this week and they showed this winery deserves its rank among China’s best. I especially enjoyed the newish Qing Xue label, a less expensive alternative to flagship Jia Bei Lan, for its balanced fruit and oak. Tasty. The anniversary will no doubt bring many mentions of HQX being the first winery in China to receive, in 2011, an “international trophy” at the Decanter […]

Australian Natural | Ross Tan and Nick van Leeuwen on organic wine, ‘affordable luxury’ and why everyone loves the pig

August 24, 2015 // 0 Comments

Ross Tan and Nick van Leeuwen of Australian Natural have spent most of their first year in business relentlessly promoting their organic and biodynamic wines in China. Here is a quick and dirty earthy interview about their organic wines and their views of the market. How would you explain organic wine and biodynamic wine in one sentence each? Nick: Organics contrasts with “industrial” or “conventional” practices by prohibiting any use of synthetic chemicals or artificial fertilisers in the vineyard or any chemical additives–other than minimal sulphur dioxide–in the winery. Ross: Whilst organics is about what growers cannot do, biodynamics goes further and […]

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