By Jim Boyce
The past few months, I have been lucky to visit wineries along the northern swath of China – in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Shanxi, and Hebei. One thing I notice: the wines made by many producers do not always reflect the skill of the wine makers. As they say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and you can’t make good wine without some decent grapes. I wrote about this recently for The Global Times. In short, I noted three challenges many wine makers have in China:
1. Because wine producers source most of their grapes from farmers and pay by weight, the farmers grow as much fruit as possible rather than sacrificing some it to improve the remainder. Quantity over quality.
2. In some areas – notably Hebei and Shandong provinces, two of the country’s biggest wine making areas – the grapes may be picked as many as two weeks too early.
3. And some Chinese wine producers, notably the big ones, blend in imported bulk wine. This can actually improve overall wine quality, but could wreak havoc on consistency since, in a given year, the sources can change – last year, Chile and Argentina dominated, this year Chile and Australia are on top, and eight years ago two-thirds came from Spain.
The obvious questions is: Why do consumers tolerate this poor wine? Because many of them buy wine for health and status reasons, rather than taste. For more details on this, see the article.
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