Taste test | Jade Vineyard is another Ningxia contender

By Jim Boyce | I met Yanan Hao yesterday to try three wines from Jade Vineyard (嘉地) in Ningxia—I know Hao best from her days at Chateau Nine Peaks in Shandong, a place that inspired one of my favorite posts. We tasted a white and two reds before being joined by Jade executive director Emma Ding.

Jade is in Ningxia’s Jingshan Experimental Vineyard Zone and planted 15 hectares of grapes in 2014—60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% each Merlot and Chardonnay—with Marselan added in 2016.

Ding says the aim is to supply wine to fine-dining establishments, five-star hotels and a membership club, with further hopes to export.

Here are the wines, with Italian- and Chinese-inspired labels, that we tasted. They were made by Zhou Shuzhen, who is especially known for her work at Kanaan and Legacy Peak.

‘Four Seasons’ Chardonnay. Unoaked, with ripe pear and melon aromas, elegant and delicate fruit, and a nice lime rind edge at the finish. In a region that tends to rely heavily on oak, it’s nice to see more such wines arising.

Hyacinth Cabernet (70%)-Merlot (30%) 2016. The entry-level wine. Ding said the goal is to get a “Ningxia taste”. It had sweet cherry aromas with hints of earth and chocolate. This one is soft and “chewy” though quite light and youthful, with the oak a bit too obvious. I’m guessing future vintages, with older vines, will offer more structure.

Aria Reserve 2015. The grapes come from outside for this one. Prominent floral aromas, notably roses, plus blackberries. Like the Hyacinth, this one is soft and round, though it offers more complexity and better oak integration. It’s made 80% from wine aged 16 months in barrel and 20% from tank.

These wines don’t come cheap—the Chardonnay retails for more than rmb250. There is a lot of competition at that price point, and with those grape varieties, but Jade has already been active in promotion and has more to come. I’ll have post more details, and hopefully taste the other wines—they do a rose, a white and five reds—soon!

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