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By Jim Boyce | Chinese wine fans in Canada have two reasons to celebrate. Not only is Silver Heights from Ningxia available, at least in British Columbia, but the premium label is cheaper than in China.
Anthony Gismondi of the Vancouver Sun included Silver Heights ‘The Summit‘ 2015 in a recent list of weekend picks, each scoring 90 or 91 points. He gave 91 points to The Summit, a blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 35 percent Merlot:
The nose a mix of charred wood smoke and black raspberry, plummy fruit. The attack is ripe, reminiscent of sweet black cherries, dried herbs and dark chocolate. Very New World but with a sense of balance, and full marks to a finish that is more savoury than was the sweet start.
Gismondi stated that “unlike many [wineries] in the region”, Silver Heights is “focused on quality”. That kind of talk will hurt the feelings! He added that the wine will improve with another five years of aging.
The Summit also received a 4.4 rating out of 5, based on 10 reviews, from the BC Liquor Stores site, which notes the wine is available in 17 of its stores.
Then there is pricing. The Summit is $62.99 (RMB336) while the other four picks—three from Canada, one from Italy—cost $19.99 (RMB107) to $29.99 (RMB160). That might seem pricey but it is cheaper than China, where the wine is listed by Silver Heights’ main distributor Torres at rmb468.
Why the difference? The most likely reasons are, one, Chinese wines face 34 percent in taxes in their own country, and two, the margins sought by the winery. Consider, for example, that BC Liquor Stores also has Silver Heights label ‘The Last Warrior‘ 2015, a red blend with slightly more Cabernet, that has “fresh, ripe aromas of dark fruits and a touch of earthiness with a lingering and smooth finish with soft tannins from the oak.” That one is $34.99 (RMB 187) while it is cheaper in China at rmb158.
Silver Heights ranks among the wineries that put Ningxia on the world wine map, starting with its first vintage in 2007. The family-based operation has since moved from a shed on the outskirts of regional capital Yinchuan to a far larger facility near the base of the Helan Mountains. The 2015 vintage was the first commercial release using grapes from the family’s vineyards there.