Exclusive: 2016 Chinese wine region harvest report (Part II)



Image: Vineyard in Yunnan, Credit: Li Demei
Image: Vineyard in Yunnan, Credit: Li Demei

In March 2016, China’s quality inspection and quarantine administration released the latest list of Eco-origin Products(*), and wines from the Shangri-la plateau in Yunnan has since become the first grape wine product to be listed.

*An Eco-origin Product should be made ‘in line with environmental protection, low-carbon, energy and resource conservation in life cycle’, according to an official research paper published in 2014 (see reference below). Essentially, these products need to meet more rigorous environmental requirements compared to an ordinary Protected Geographic Indication (GI) product.


Region: Deqin

Wine grapes are mainly scattered across the steep mountain sides between the river Lancang and the river Jinsha, with altitudes that sharply differ between 1600m to 2800m above sea level.

Similar to an average year, the bud break for the numerous varieties in the region came at the beginning of April in 2016. However, the differences in altitude mean that the growing speed differs.

The region had more rain and less sunshine compared to 2015, which delayed harvest for three to four days.

Growers started picking Merlot grapes that are planted at 2600m altitude from 14th October; four days later, they started to pick the same variety planted at 2600m altitude.

Cabernet Sauvignon at 2400m altitude was picked from 20th October, while those planted at 2600m waited until the beginning of November to be picked.

The overall quality of grapes in Deqin remained the same as 2015.

Without the need to bury the vines in winter, growers started winter pruning in mid-December.

Region: Mile

Mile region produces red varieties including Rose Honey, ‘Fa Guo Ye (meaning ‘French Wild’)’ and ‘Yun Zhong Wu (‘Cloud Dancer’)’; the white varieties include Shui Jing (‘Crystal’).

The region enjoys abundant heat and sunlight throughout the year, with no need to bury its vines in winter. This is also the region where the grapes ripen the earliest.

Similarly to previous years, the Faguoye grapes bud broke on 14th March 2016, followed by Rose Honey on 25th. In general, 2016 saw less rain, which allowed vines to accumulate more heat and sunshine, leading to an early harvest compared to 2015.

Growers started to pick Faguoye from 18th June, 10 days earlier than the previous year; Rose Honey was picked from 4th July, 15 days earlier than 2015; Shuijing from 4th July, again 10 days earlier. Winter pruning in this region began at the end of December.


Image: Vineyard in Sichuan, Credit: Li Demei
Image: Vineyard in Sichuan, Credit: Li Demei

Region: Xiaojin

The Xiaojin region is another high-altitude wine region in Southern China with no need to bury their vines in winter.

Wine grapes from Xiaojin started bud break in the end of April, which was slightly earlier than usual.

The climate of 2016 has been generally average. The year began with a drier climate before September, but got wetter after September, adding 80mm extra rainfall to the annual figure compared to an average year.

White grapes including Chardonnay were picked from 8th October; growers started picking Merlot from 20th October and Cabernet Sauvignon on 25th October. The 2016 harvest finished on 9th November, similar to the previous years.

The overall quality has been good with some increase in sugar levels. Winter pruning in Xiaojin didn’t start until January 2017.

Region: Panzhihua

Rose Honey and Faguoye are among the key varieties in the Panzhihua region; plantings of international varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are comparatively limited.

Bud break began at the beginning of mid-February, 15 days later than usual due to heavy snow in the previous winter.

The climate of 2016 has been average with a slight increase in rainfall; sufficient sunshine, however, meant that grapes ripened fully.

Local growers started to pick Faguoye from 10th July, Rose Honey from 20th July and Cabernet Sauvignon from 1st August, which were around seven days later than 2015. The grape quality has been similar to that of 2015.

With no need to bury its vines, the Panzhihua region didn’t start winter pruning until late January.


Image: Grace Vineyard, Shanxi
Image: Grace Vineyard, Shanxi

Region: Taigu

Grape vines were dug out in Taigu, Shanxi from 5th April 2016, similar to an average year. The work continued for a week.

The region saw a significant increase in rainfall, especially in the latter half of 2016.

The Chardonnay picking started 25th August, Merlot from 23rd September and Cabernet Sauvignon from 4th October, slightly later than usual.

Influenced by the rain, the sugar level of the grapes was slightly lower compared to 2015, which had a longer maturation period. The quality was that of an average year.

Growers buried their vines during 8th to 13th of November, similar to previous years.


Region: Wuwei

Similar to an average year, wine growers in Wuwei started digging out their vines from 15th April.

Generally speaking, the first half of the growing season had continuous high temperatures; the latter half of the year, however, had an increase in rain, which later led to vineyard diseases in parts of the region.

Growers started harvesting their grapes slightly earlier than usual: Chardonnay from 18th September; Merlot and Cabernet Gernischt from 28th September, and Cabernet Sauvignon from 1st October.

In terms of quality, it has been a lower standard year with less ripeness compared to previous years. The grapes were buried from 28th October.


Region: Fangshan

Spring warmed up quickly for the Fanshan region in 2016. Growers started digging out their vines from as early as 23rd March.

The bud break also came earlier compared to previous years: Chardonnay started its growing cycle from 5th April. Due to the fast-rising temperature, flowering season came on 12th May, around a week earlier than usual. From 13th July, most varieties entered the middle phase of véraison.

The first half of the 2016 growing season had average rainfall; from July to September, the region experienced increased rainfall.

Growers in Fangshan started picking their white grapes from the end of August, followed by Merlot from mid-to-late September and Cabernet Sauvignon from mid-October.

Picking time varied hugely among producers. Generally speaking, the harvest season was seven days later than usual in 2016. Rain during harvest hit parts of the region, causing a drop in quality in these areas.

The region started winter pruning and vine burying from mid-October, which was later than usual.

Region: Yanqing

Similar to 2015, the Yanqing region started digging out its grape vines from early April in 2016.

Generally speaking, the Yanqing region had a comparatively dry year with less rainfall throughout 2016; July and August in particular saw only half the amount of rainfall compared to 2015. However, the region had less sunshine in August than usual. In September, the sunshine levels returned to average.

Chardonnay and Merlot were picked from 10th September and 22nd September respectively, both 10 days later than 2015. Growers picked their Cabernet Sauvignon from 9th October, the same as 2015. The fruit quality of Yanqing’s 2016 vintage excelled compared to an average year. Winter pruning started from 20th October.

Northeast China

Image: Vineyard in Huanren, Northeast China
Image: Vineyard in Huanren, Northeast China

Region: Huanren

The Huanren region of the Liaoning province is known for producing ice wine, so 90% of its wine grape plantings are Vidal. Most of the Vidal grapes are planted near the Huanren water reservoir.

In 2016, the grape vines were dug out from 10th May, similar to an average year. Wine grapes planted close to the reservoir were dug out earlier.

The local climate was average in 2016, but the resulting fruit showed better quality than an average year.

Growers started burying their vines and winter pruning from the end of October.

Ice wine grape picking started from 20th December. Due to bad weather, the picking continued intermittently until mid-January, 2017.

Region: Liuhe

Growers started digging out their vines in Liuhe from 23rd April. The timing was similar to recent years, but earlier than five years ago, when spring was slower to warm up.

The rainfall in 2016 has been average, though the region had less sunshine after véraison, which slowed down the ripening process.

The key local varieties, Gongniang No.1, Shuangyou, Shuanghong, Zuoyouhong, were picked from the end of September, roughly six days later than usual. The Beibinghong variety, which is meant for ice wine, was picked at the end of November.

Region: Ji’an

The Ji’an region on the shore of Yalu River is mainly varieties such as Shuangyou, Shuanghong, Beibinghong and Gongniang No.28.

Local growers started digging out their vines from 10th April. Bud break came soon on 15th April, same as an average year.

For the climate, 2016 was an average year, although the temperature drop after the increased rainfall from 10th September delayed the ripening process and consequentially the harvest time.

Growers started picking Shuangyou and Shuanghong from 23rd October, 10 days later than usual. The Beibinghong variety was picked at the beginning of December for the region’s ice wine production.

Winter pruning and vine burying (the Gongniang series need to be buried in winter) started on 20th October.


Region: Xianyang

Wine grapes in the Xianyang region started bud break on 25th March 2016, roughly seven days earlier than 2015.

There was some night frost at the beginning of the year, though it had little impact on the vines. The climate of the rest of the year had been average, with sufficient sunshine, average levels of rainfall during growing season and less rain during the maturing season. Few vineyards were troubled by diseases this year. The average sugar level of the vines was higher than an average year.

The Merlot picking started from 15th September and Cabernet Sauvignon from 20th September; both dates were similar to previous years. The fruit quality of 2016 vintage was better than usual.

Xianyang is another region that doesn’t need to bury its vines in winter, though young vines and less cold-resilient varieties may need to be shallowly buried to endure the coldness. Winter pruning in Xianyang started at the beginning of December.

Inner Mongolia

Region: Wuhai

Growers in Wuhai started digging out their vines from the end of April until 3rd May, later than an average year.

Bud break came later than usual, which was followed by a shorter growing season with average sunshine and rainfall.

Growers picked their Merlot earlier than usual on 22nd September, and Cabernet Sauvignon at the beginning of October, a more common time.

The quality of the fruit was average for this year. Winter pruning and vine burying started on 5th November.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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