By Jim Boyce | For the past dozen years, we’ve heard a growing buzz in China about the grape Marselan (马瑟兰)—that’s one reason I started World Marselan Day and why we made it the focus of this year’s Grape Wall Challenge. And that buzz will soon get louder given the tasty wines in the queue.
Prime example: a 2017 barrel sample from Helan Qing Xue (far left). This wine is a portrait in purple. Fresh floral—think violet—and dark berry aromas, along with touches of vanilla and sweet oak, all paired with equally vibrant flavors. Made by Zhang Jing, this Marselan is bursting with personality and might serve the dual purpose of pleasing casual drinkers and experts alike.
Fellow winery Pushang (蒲尚) is already known for its Marselan and a barrel sample from the 2017 vintage suggests less moodiness and more fruit and vibrancy than in 2016. Winemaker Jiang Jing (above) adds a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon to her Marselan but cut it from 10 percent to 5 percent for the 2017 vintages. By the way, Ningxia Marselans can be difficult to find but I did see Pushang’s at Yinchuan airport—in the Xi Xia King wine shop—for rmb298 per bottle.
Our final barrel samples were at the stunningly beautiful Yuanshi. We tried a 100-percent Marselan and a Marselan-Cabernet blend. While some thought the blend had added depth, I was happy with the freshness of the single-variety version: it was less lively than the Helan Qing Xue sample and instead had dustier and darker fruit and a touch of blackcurrant liqueur character. Anyway, we have plenty of wines vying for the hearts of wine experts; we need more that please the palates of the consumer at large.
And there are plenty of more Ningxia Marselans to come given this grape has been planted in recent years by everyone from Pigeon Hill to Helan Mountain (Pernod Ricard) to Li’s Family Vineyard to Changyu-Moser XV, just to name a few. I’ll have lots more on these wines, and Marselans from other parts of China, soon!