By Jim Boyce
Winemakers from Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the United States visited China last year as part of a project code-named the Ningxia Wine Challenge. While helping to organize the project, I wrote:
The Ningxia Wine Challenge is an opportunity for people who seek an adventure, enjoy cultural exchange and are interested in learning about and making wine in one of the most promising wine regions, Ningxia, in one of the most promising wine countries, China.
The participants will meet local winemakers and share ideas, meet their fellow visiting winemakers, and try wines from the region. They will no doubt also attract media attention, attend dinners with officials and winery managers, and have a chance to explore the cultural, historical and culinary offerings of Ningxia.
Starting in mid-July, we had about three weeks to find candidates (ultimately 50 applicants from 15 nations) and choose 10 of them (based on recommendations from five judges). We then worked with the authorities on visas and tickets to get everyone to Yinchuan. Seven winemakers — see the photo above — eventually made it. The blog post From Idea to Reality in Ten Weeks describes the scene about a week after arrival.
My involvement ended a few days later with a going-away party near the Helan Mountains, which serves as a wind buffer for many of the region’s vineyards. A co-organizer and I received gold medals, gave speeches, hugged people and went to the hotel to pack for our flight to Beijing.
Even so, I have been aware most of the seven winemakers have made return visits to Ningxia as part of the project. Last week, while in Ningxia for a conference, I called one, David Tyney, since I knew he was in town. He invited me to visit a new winery called Jin Sha (“Gold Sands”). I hopped in a taxi and 30 minutes later arrived to find Tyney making wine. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Part of the Ningxia Wine Challenge.
So, for those who have been asking, the challenge is still happening. Last fall, each winemaker made a red wine. Now three — Tyney, Benoit Beigner and Jose Hernandez Gonzales — have been back to make a white wine as part of the second stage. (I understand the others were unable to make it due to tight timing or for personal reasons.) The idea is that both red wines and white wines will be judged next year.
A few photos from my visit.