By Jim Boyce
In December, I tagged along on a research trip by Ma Huiqin, of China Agricultural University, and visited Yunnan Red Wine Company This interview with Shan Shumin, the company’s GM, is second in a series of posts about an area some call Shangri-La.
Boyce: What are the biggest challenges of growing grapes in this region?
Shan (translated by Ma Huiqin): At this stage, it’s the range of grapes, as we only grow two main types – Crystal and Rose Honey. We feel that we donâ€™t have the option of growing “noble varieties”, like they do in North China with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes. We are like painters without enough colors.
A second challenge is that the harvest season overlaps the rainy season. Every five years we have excessive rain, which leads to disease and to little sugar in the grapes.
To help deal with these challenges, we work with universities to introduce more foreign grape varieties. We also collect local varieties, most of them hybrids, based on their disease-resistance and fruit quality. Within the next two to three years, we hope to have two main red grapes and two main white grapes.
We have done small tastings with wine experts with the grape Yun Zhong Wu, which translates to “dancing in the clouds.” The response has been good. Missionaries brought this grape to China in the late-nineteenth century.
We are also looking at the harvest period for our grapes. For red grapes, we normally begin picking from July 10 to 15, which is the start of the rainy season. It takes one month or so to harvest, the same length as the rainy season. For white grapes, we can begin picking from the end of June, at the very earliest, though we usually start in July. Again, this overlaps with the rainy season. This year was particularly tough since we had our heaviest rain in 37 years and not enough sun.
Instead of dealing with this situation by using chemicals or viticulture methods, we would like to find a grape that is naturally late harvest. Then, we could pick after the rainy season. Even if we could pick two weeks afterwards, we would get a better accumulation of sugar, better aroma and better quality grapes overall.
Next: An interview with Zhang Ning, chief wine maker of Yunnan Red Wine Company.
Previous: Yunnan Red Wine Company CEO Wu Kegang
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