Chardon-yay! 2020 grape harvest underway in China

The 2020 harvest in China has started, with operations in regions such as Shanxi, Ningxia and Xinjiang already picking their grapes. Wineries like Tiansai began to pick Chardonnay a week ago, about a half-month ahead of the usual schedule. At the same time, Silver Heights in Ningxia posted that their Chardonnay was ready to go.

Lee Yeanyean, winemaker of Grace Vineyard in Shanxi, said yesterday his Chardonnay was heading for the sorting table.

“Earliest by two weeks on record,” he stated. “We initially wanted it to be heavier in ‘tropical’ fruit… but it’s going to be lighter than usual in style, with more refreshing acidity and citrus. We’ll work hard on the lees and ferment.”

I followed up with Lee today and he said his part of Shanxi received 100 mm of rain, about a quarter of its annual total, over the past few weeks and that helped with the decision. He added the team just got the grapes in before the rain returned!

He expects a Chardonnay that is less fruit-forward but with lots of citrus.

“It’ll be leaner for sure, with lower alcohol,” said Lee.

While Grace’s Chardonnay is usually 13 to 13.5 percent, he expects this one to be about 12 percent.

Lee said he is also happy to back at Grace after an eight-month break due the COVID-19 crisis, one that forced him to work on the 2019 Chardonnay blends remotely (see below). He returned to Shanxi province last Friday after doing two weeks of quarantine in Shanghai–and went straight into harvest.

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