By Jim Boyce
Word is Ningxia has become the first province/region in China to be accepted as an official observer in the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). The only other OIV observer in China is Yantai in the province of Shandong though that is at a municipal level.
Officially called the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with the minority Hui people making up about a third of the population, it lies about 800 kilometers west of Beijing and is about the size of Ireland. Wine is produced near the base of the Helan Mountains, which run from north to south and moderate the wind. Attractive features for producing wine here include ample sunshine and low mold levels.
Several people involved in the OIV application told me a key motivation is to improve Chinese wine quality via greater access to winery management, wine-making and wine standards info. One source said Ningxia aimed to be “the first region in China to fully realize the need to use international standards for the local market.” There are plans to provide the OIV with a center in a complex northwest of the capital, Yinchuan, that is to include demonstration vineyards, research facilities, a conference center and a hotel.
Another motivation for the application is to raise the profile of Ningxia, not only on the global scene but also locally as few Chinese associate it with wine, let alone with some of the country’s best. Ningxia is home of Helan Qing Xue, which last year saw its Jia Bei Lan wine become the first Chinese wine to win an ‘international trophy‘ at the Decanter World Wine Awards — and in a category for Bordeaux-style wines, no less. Other notable wineries include large producers Xi Xia King, Changyu and Dynasty, the Pernod Ricard-invested Domaine Helan Mountain, boutique winery Silver Heights, and a Moet Chandon project slated to produce sparkling wine in a few years.
For more on wines from Ningxia and other operations in northwest China, see the posts related to two contests co-organized by this site — the North by Northwest Challenge and the Ningxia vs Bordeaux Challenge.