Free (virtual) wine tours of Ningxia!

[This post first appeared in a December issue of Grape Wall newsletter. Subscribe for free here.)

You could say it’s the next best thing to being there. A virtual reality app allows friends from afar to tour Ningxia vineyards, wineries, cellars, tasting rooms, retail shops and more, with the added bonus of aerial views.

The app will prove useful to everyone from viticulturalists, winemakers and equipment sellers to tourists, writers and academics.

(If you want to skip to some one-minute videos I made with the app, check out Yuanshi winery here and Lansai winery here.)

Yinchuan Wine Association, representing the sub-region nearest Ningxia’s capital and nestled against the Helan Mountain range, is spearheading this initiative that features 20 of members, including some of China’s best-known wineries.

(In the three years since its founding, YWA has created wine guides, organized consumer tastings and trade training in dozens of cities, hosted buyers’ conferences, organized trade fair pavilions, and more.)

I’ve included screenshots below from five winery “tours” to give an idea of the app’s content, accessing it on WeChat using this link, and it has many possible useful applications.

  • Winemakers and equipment sellers can get ideas of what an individual winery, or the Yinchuan wine scene in general, uses in terms of bottling lines, fermentation tanks, barrels and so on. What is domestically made? What is imported? From where do those barrels hail?
  • Viticulturalists can examine vineyards, including row length, spacing and direction, plus irrigation pools, nearby geological features, evidence of mechanical equipment use, and more. (You can spot the built-up soil, between some vineyard rows, which is used to bury the vines each winter to protect them.)
  • Designers and architects can see the eclectic range of winery styles, including sprawling Loire-esque chateaus, tributes to Chinese architecture, modern takes meant to evoke wine themes, and more.
  • Tourists can check out all of the above, plus retail areas, tasting rooms, leisure spaces such as gardens and pavilions, and, depending on the winery, dining facilities. This is helpful before heading off into the rural parts of this north-central China region for the first time.
  • Finally, writers can add texture to stories. I spent an entire afternoon at Lansai winery but had no idea, until I later used the app’s aerial view, that there had been a robin’s egg-blue irrigation pond, vibrant against that stark Helan Mountain range, so near to us.

Those using the app start by picking one of the 20 wineries, then navigate using images at the screen bottom, arrows placed throughout or, for aerial views, the ‘helicopter’ icon.

It’s fairly easy to use even if you do not understand Mandarin or Chinese characters. Speaking of which, there is commentary in Mandarin, but because I sped up my videos to cut time, I added some music.


Yuanshi ranks among the most stunning wineries China, a tribute to local stone, wood and styles. It also features one of the most impressive tasting rooms, capable of seating over 100 under its high ceilings, as well as spotless tank and barrels rooms — this operation actually has a barrel washing room! — and gorgeous buildings.

This is the winery that President Xi Jinping visited in the summer of 2020, ahead of Beijing more formally throwing its weight behind Ningxia’s wine industry.

(Check out this one-minute video.)


Lansai ranks among my favorite wineries, with its tribute to Chinese architecture, including a Hangzhou-style garden complete with pavilions and pool, which is easy appreciate using the app’s aerial view.

The tour inside reveals more traditional themes, including tasting rooms with “kangs”, a traditional heated platform upon which people sit or — I guess if you drink enough of Lansai’s delicious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Marselan — sleep.

(Check out the one-minute video)

Domaine Chandon

Chandon is a popular stop, both because of its brand name and because it is the biggest commercial sparkling operation in the region. Virtual visitors can check out the modern architecture — the main building is meant to evoke a winter vineyard with the vines all buried — along with the vineyards and tasting room before they go in person.


Li’s is within Yinchuan’s main city limits — doing a 360-degree view will reveal plenty of apartment buildings. We had a fantastic meal here a few years ago, on a tour with Lenz Moser — the owner eventually got out a guitar and performed both Chinese and Western songs — and the app shows plenty of dining room options. Plus, the bottling line, cellar and more.

Domaine Charme

Finally, another personal favorite, Domaine Charme, with its pyramid-shaped visitors center and gravity-based winery system. One thing you might notice visiting local wineries the past few years, or by using the app, is how many ceramic containers are in sight. Charme is among those experimenting with them, including for a top-notch orange wine made with Viognier. It also makes very good Marselan and Cabernet.

And there are lots more, including Helan Qing Xue (known for winning a Decanter International Trophy in 2011), Kanaan (where the owners also have a second project called Mulando), Silver Heights (now exporting to an ever-growing number of countries) and Legacy Peak (featuring one of the oldest vineyards, from which all three of the aforementioned wineries sourced fruit at one time or another.)

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such an app in Ningxia — Xige Estate made one some time ago — but it is the most ambitious. And it’s another feather in the cap for Yinchuan Wine Association, which has set an impressive pace for promoting its members, its region and Ningxia as a whole.

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