From idea to reality in ten weeks: Ningxia Wine Challenge underway in China

Ningxia Wine Challengers. (Front row, from left) Penny Jones of Australia, Benoit Beigner of France, Patricia Miranda of Chile and New Zealand, Jose Gonzalez of Spain. (Back row, from left) Carl van der Merwe of South Africa, Eleni Papadakis of the United States, David Tyney of Australia.

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Ten weeks ago today, the Ningxia Wine Challenge began with a call to the world’s winemakers to come to China for this year’s harvest. Today, seven winemakers from five continents are in Ningxia and will soon be trying their hands at making wine from locally grown grapes.

Challenge” is an appropriate word for several reasons. For starters, this is the first project of its kind in China and there will be growing pains as the winemakers, the organizers in Ningxia and other parties deal with logistical, cultural and other issues. It is also a challenge because this is a contest to see who makes the best wine as determined by a blind tasting. And it is a challenge because 2012 is looking like a tough vintage in Ningxia due to an excessive amount of rain and, in turn, vineyard disease and grape loss. This will put everyone’s skills to the test.

When the call first went out in mid-July, the organizers worried too little time remained to attract capable winemakers. I spent five days in Yinchuan during the past week and those worries are long gone as each winemaker brings experience from several countries, is adventurous, is asking sharp questions on everything from equipment to vineyards, and is keen to make wine.

I will post about the challenge occasionally here on Grape Wall and regularly on dedicated site Ningxia Wine Challenge. The past week includes:

Beigner, Papadakis, Tyney and Gonzalez check out their fermentation tanks.

Getting tanked in Ningxia: Challenge winemakers do an equipment check

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