Ningxia Wine Challenge Panel: Mihalis Boutaris, Lilian Carter, Li Demei, Liz Thach and Mireia Torres

A lot of factors to consider.


By Jim Boyce

After the deadline for entering the Ningxia Wine Challenge — at 5 PM on July 27 — all of CVs and forms will be sent to a panel of wine experts who hail from five nations and have a link to China. The panelists will pick their top 15 candidates and those lists — and group email discussions where necessary — will determine which ten winemakers join the Ningxia Wine Challenge.

Panelists will send their rankings to Ma Huiqin of China Agricultural University and Jim Boyce of Grape Wall in order for double verification of the results. Director Cao Kailong of the Bureau of Grape and Floriculture Industries will have final approval of the candidate list.

The panel members, in alphabetical order….


Mihalis Boutaris of Greece

Fifth-generation winemaker Boutaris graduated from University of California at Davis with a Master of Science in Horticulture (viticulture and enology). He has made wine in Chile and France, at his family’s Kir-Yianni Estates in Greece, and in China, his most recent project a new estate near the Maiji Mountain in Gansu Province.

Lilian Carter of Australia

Most recently a winemaker with Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley, Carter has worked at Domaine Chandon, also in Yarra, and Orlando Wines in the Barossa Valley. In China, she was winemaker and winery manager from August 2008 to December 2009 for Pernod Ricard at the Helan Mountain operation, a joint project in Ningxia.

Li Demei of China

Wine lecturer, writer and consultant Li Demei is known for his work at winery Helan Qing Xue in Ningxia and Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard in Hebei. Li trained as an oenologist at ENITA de Bordeaux, interned at Chateau Palmer and teaches at Beijing Agricultural University. He recently published this book that looks at wine from a Chinese perspective.

Elizabeth Thach of United States

Thach is a professor at Sonoma State University, where she teaches about management and the wine business. She  has written several wine books, consults to multiple wineries and became a Master of Wine in 2011. In China,  she will present a paper in Yinchuan, Ningxia, in September and visited Beijing in 2007 and Xinjiang in 2009 — read her blog posts about the latter region here.

Mireia Torres of Spain

A member of Spain’s Torres wine family, she is general manager of Jean Leon and Torres Priorat, and previously was technical director of wineries in Vilafranca del Penedès, Rioja, Ribera and Priorat. Torres studied viticulture and oenolgy at École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier. In China, she participated in a joint project with Grace Vineyard in Shanxi to produce a muscat called Symphony.

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