Jancis Robinson Q&A: On China’s wines, Cabernet Gernischt, ‘American Wines’ & more

Jancis Robinson checks a map of China.

Jancis Robinson checks a map of China.

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By Jim Boyce

English wine writer Jancis Robinson has been visiting China and its wineries for more than a decade, with her most recent trip being to Ningxia last fall to taste ~50 wines and tour the region’s operations. This week I asked her a few questions about China’s wine scene (my highlights).

What is your general impression of the progress in wine quality?

The number of good wines suddenly seemed to increase considerably a couple of years ago and is continuing to do so at a heartening rate.

When you visited Ningxia last fall, what most impressed you and what most caused you apprehension about the wine scene?

I was most impressed by the sheer number of decent wines but was apprehensive about the high yields. I felt the wines could be much better.

Some in Ningxia want to identify the region with Cabernet Gernischt (Carmenere). What do you think of that position?

I don’t think there is much point in specialising in a single variety. This would limit choice. All those countries / regions that at one stage were associated with a single variety are desperately trying to prove how versatile they are. And Carmenere is a difficult grape to love. Too tough and green! It’s also quite difficult to ripen properly — especially at high crop levels.

If you had to pick one wine that you have tried from China to show the potential of the country, what wine would it be?

Silver Heights, Emma’s Reserve 2009 — but I am probably out of date. I dare say there is a new raft of good wine being produced which I have not yet tasted.

The World Atlas of Wine, written with Hugh Johnson, is the most recent of your books translated into Chinese. Are you planning any more translations?

Yes, the book that came out in March by me and Linda Murphy called American Wine will be published in Chinese.

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