From the stony fields protected by the Helan Mountains to the windswept sandy soils south of that imposing range, winemaking consultant Deng Zhongxiang has spent a decade exploring Ningxia terroirs. Deng works both with Ningxiaâ€™s most commonly found grape varieties, led by Cabernet Sauvignon, and with everything from Viognier and Italian Riesling to Marselan and Malbec.
On June 8 at the Wine to Asia fair in Shenzhen, Deng will lead a tour of Ningxia through the wines he created at four operationsâ€”Charme, Lansai, Rong Yuan Mei and Unitedâ€”and explain the unique climate and vineyards at each. I was lucky enough to visit all four wineries two weeks ago with Deng, who earned his wine-making certificate in Burgundy and worked both there and Bordeaux, and attendees are in for an adventure.
Domaine Charme å¤æœ¨åº„å›: Distinguished by a pyramid-shaped visitor center designed by owner and architect Zhang Pai, with views of the â€˜Buddhaâ€™s Faceâ€™ of Helanshan, Charme has 300 mu of seven-year-old vineyards strewn with stones bigger than footballs. These fields are home to Viognier, Marselan, Cabernet Sauvignon and more.
Wines: Viognier 2019 and Marselan 2019
Lansai è“èµ›é…’åº„: From its peaceful classical garden to the â€œkangâ€ beds in the guest rooms, Lansai is a tribute to Chinese culture. Further back from the Helan Mountain range, the soil here is a mix of gravel and sand, and includes 200 mu of vineyards planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and more.
Wines: Pinot Noir 2017 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Rong Yuan Mei å®¹å›ç¾Žé…’åº„: Set just past Helanshanâ€™s southern tail, Rong Yuan Mei is windswept and sandy. Led by a grape grower who became a wine producer due to the quality of his fruit, Rong Yuan Mei has 1000 mu of vines, split between the winery site and an area near West Pigeon Lake in Qingtongxia. The leading varieties include Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine: Malbec 2019
United Winery è”åˆå†œç§‘ä¸¹éº“é…’åº„: This operation features a cellar where jazz classics are played to aging wine. (Plus, an occasional Frank Sinatra song.) United has 300 mu of vineyards, planted in sandy soil strewn with small rocks, and plans to quickly expand over the next year.
Wine: â€˜Charmeâ€™ Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
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