Maria Isabel Tapia of Chile is one of 48 candidates who traveled to China this month for the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, a two-year project that pairs foreign winemakers with local wineries to practice their craft and compete for rmb700,000 in cash prizes. Her partner is Xin Niu Winery / 新牛酒庄. I asked Tapia, who has done harvests in Australia, New Zealand, The United States and Canada, about her first ten days in Ningxia.
What was your flight pattern to Ningxia?
From Oliver in the Okanagan Valley to Vancouver to Beijing to Yinchuan.
Initial thoughts about Ningxia’s wine industry?
The good thing is people here show passion, they love wine, and that will help them get good results. You can see people want to learn, that they will consider advice, and that they want to improve everywhere.
What kind of wine style do you find?
I think it’s kind of a French style with some Chinese elements. The French part comes from the processes and the barrels in use. But Ningxia has its own climate, it’s own terroir, so winemakers have to adapt to the reality of China. They need more time to further develop their style.
It’s also important to find appropriate grapes, like Chile with Carmenere and Uruguary with Tannat and New Zealand with Sauvigon Blanc.
What intrigued you about China?
I met some Chinese students who were learning about wine-making the last time I was in New Zealand. One of them, Lei Han, is from Xian and he said I should go to China and make wine. I sent them photos after I arrived and now they want to come, too!
What makes Chile unique as a wine country?
Our principle difference is that we are isolated by high mountains. We live between the mountains and the sea, with the dessert in the north the driest in the world and our regions to the south, toward Antarctica, very cold. Because we are so isolated, we do not have much vineyard disease. And because we have so many different climates, we have many different kinds of wine.
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