Two degrees of separation | A common bond for Ningxia’s top wine brands

By Jim Boyce | The moody blends of Silver Heights, the brawnier offerings of Helan Qing Xue and the fruit-forward drops of Kanaan: these distinct styles have all helped put Ningxia on the world wine map. And each of these operations has experimented at least once with grapes from a 20-year-old vineyard now used to make wine under the label Legacy Peak.

Legacy Peak is a master class in guanxi, the system of relations that oils the wheels of business. Take Wang Fengyu. He is a key player in Helan Qing Xue, the winery best-known for winning a Decanter regional trophy in 2011. He is also father of Wang Fang, who now runs Kanaan, which quickly made a name for itself. And he encouraged Liu Zhongmin, the father of Legacy Peak owner Liu Shi, to shift from a focus on trees to one on grapes some 20 years ago.

The links to operations like Yuanshi and Silver Heights are more fragile. For example, Silver Heights used grapes from multiple sources, and only once from Legacy Peak, before focusing completely to its own vineyards starting in 2015.

The point is that the wines that put Ningxia on the world wine map, especially in terms of earning medals and glowing reviews, can trace part of their heritage to a few vineyards, including the one planted at Legacy Peak in 1997 with 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 15 percent Chardonnay.

By the way, the elder Liu told us lots of other stories. Like the one about a Mongolian army invading this area, south of the Great Wall, centuries ago and burning everything to the ground, which in turn gave the land a special fertility. And about the royalty buried in the nearby Xi Xia tombs that perhaps also gives the terroir some extra oomph. And about how “Legacy Peak 1246” has meanings related to the Liu family’s name, to the distance of the vineyard from Beijing, and much more.

I’ll write a separate post about all that. And about the wines: especially the Chardonnay, overseen by consultant Zhou Shuzhen and one of my favorites in China.

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