By Jim Boyce
The newest edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson will be released on October 7 in both print and digital form with a China section that has maps of three key wine regions — veterans Shandong and Hebei and new kid on the block Ningxia.
“One of the more potent symbols of the westernisation of China has been the extent to which the staggeringly numerous Chinese have taken to wine”, starts the section on China. The atlas goes on to include background on China’s wine history (“Throughout the early years of this century, it was difficult to find wines labelled as Chinese of any real quality”) and production (“[OIV figures] suggest that China has been the world’s sixth most important wine produer since the turn of the century”).
It then turns to the most prominent wineries and regions in China, including Shandong, Hebei, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Yunnan, and lists six “picks” — Chateau Changyu Moser XV (Ningxia), Grace Vineyard (Shanxi), Helan Qing Xue (Ningxia), Domaine Helan Mountain (Ningxia), Jade Valley (Shaanxi) and Silver Heights (Ningxia).
Earlier today, I did a quick Q&A with Robinson on the book.
What changes can readers expect from this newest edition?
One of the most important is the introduction of a very beautiful iBook where people can zoom in on the maps, and the pictures and labels really do look great. Also, every single page and map and label selection and picture have been completely updated. Lots of work on our part! Lots of new producers, and new extensions to old maps, plus brand new maps for Ningxia, Croatia, Virginia, North Canterbury (New Zealand) and Georgia (in the Caucausus not the United States).
You visited about a dozen wineries in Ningxia last year and have been to Xinjiang and Shanxi. What is your “on the ground” impression of China’s wine scene?
Everything seems to be going in the right direction with wine quality steadily increasing — far more worthwhile products than there used to be — and exciting exploration of new areas such as Yunnan.
What were the main challenges faced in compiling the China section?
Getting hold of reliable statistics.
How do you see the China section shaping up for the eighth edition?
I could easily imagine devoted four pages to China in the next edition rather than the two in the current one.