Ningxia Q&8 | Emma Yu on Ningxia vs Yunnan, Dunkelfelder & natural wine

Winemaker Emma Yu of Petit Mont is the latest to do Q&8, covering everything from how Ningxia and Yunnan differ to the uniqueness of Dunkelfelder to her flower arranging hobby. Yu studied in France and Germany, and most recently worked at Changyu Moser XV. Her family also has a Tianjin-based company that imports and distributes wine. Q&8 means eight questions and eight answers–let’s go.

1 What are the biggest differences between making wine in Ningxia and Yunnan?

There are huge differences between Ningxia and Yunnan. First, road conditions are quite different. Ningxia vineyards are on flat land while Yunnan vineyards are split among valleys, so more sophisticated driving skills are needed in Yunnan.

Second, there is more fruit diversity in Yunnan due to the altitude changes and the nature of the vineyards.

Also, the wine industry developed much slower in Yunnan than in Ningxia. Ningxia is one of the fastest developing wine regions in the world. There are far fewer vineyards and wineries in Yunnan.

2 You made wine with Dunkelfelder, a grape few people know. How was that experience?

Dunkelfelder was planted recently in Ningxia and some wineries use it for blending, to enhance color and add floral aromas. We first tried it in 2020 and also originally planned to blend it with other varieties.

After fermentation, we found the wine to be very interesting. We had tried single variety Dunkelfelder from Germany and thought Dunkelfelder in Ningxia really showed a new style for this variety. It is more condensed and concentrated than the German one, with more mature aromas, but has lower alcohol compared to other varieties in Ningxia. So, we decided to keep it as a single varietal wine in 2020.

3 Speaking of floral, you also do flower arrangement as a hobby. How did you get involved with that?

I easily get involved in hobbies. I like to get some basic knowledge, not too sophisticated, but enough to enjoy them. With flower arrangement, I started to learn about it during my last assignment. I feel relaxed and pleasant designing with flowers. Life is boring if it only involves wines although I do love wines very much!

4 There is much talk about the best grape variety for Ningxia? Which has performed best so far?

For sure, Marselan has shown very good results in Ningxia, and is getting really hot in the market!

I always think Merlot can make diverse styles, even in cooler years, but it seems a bit harder to sell a single-variety Merlot in the market!

In recent years, Malbec and Cabernet Franc are also giving us surprises, and we can expect more possibilities from Ningxia.

5 What kind of imported wines do you like to drink?

As my family runs a wine importing company, and I am in charge of purchasing, I really need to taste wines from all over the world. Recently, I am getting very interested in single variety Grenache wines.

6 What are your three favorite Ningxia foods to eat when working there?

Barbecue, steamed lamb neck and rice noodles (called liang pi ?? in Chinese).

7 We see a growing focus on organic / natural / biodynamic practices at wineries. Do you think this is a trend or will it endure?

This is a big trend for the entire food industry, not only for wine, as people always pay more attention to health issues. Wineries also should consider the sustainability of the environment.

I still remember one of my German professors, who focused on biodynamic research, telling me that vines are plants, and plants should feed the land by themselves, like forests do.

Vineyards and winemaking will increasingly become more natural and more environmentally friendly.

8 We also see more people without vineyards or wineries buying grapes, renting equipment, and making and promoting their own brands. What is the customer reaction?

Customer like stories, especially when it comes to wine. Wine is more of a “people to people” product. Customers sometimes can believe in a brand that has character even if the brand is without a winery. I find some customers like this concept when the wines are really good.

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