DecanterChina.com speaks exclusively to winemakers at Chateau Changyu Moser XV to learn more about one of China’s biggest producers.
Ningxia wines in Europe
Chateau Changyu Moser XV, owned by China’s biggest wine producing company Changyu in Ningxia, was one of the first Chinese wines to be launched in Europe.
Three Chateau Changyu Moser XV red wines, priced between £10 and £50, are currently available in supermarkets, wine clubs and high-end restaurants in London, said Austrian winemaker and consultant Lenz Moser.
With relatively moderate prices and by-the-glass sales options, the Chinese chateau seems keen to make its wines more accessible to the Londoners.
The evolution of bottle shape
The chateau’s distinctive European-style castle, which costed €70m to build, first opened in 2012. The winery’s first vintage, however, can be traced back to 2008. This is also the first vintage imported by British merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) in 2013.
The chateau initially used the sloping-shouldered Burgundy bottle to fill its red wines, until Moser pointed out that using Burgundy bottles for typical Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) may confuse the European market.
At Moser’s insistence, the chateau altered the bottle shape and other design details. As a result, the chateau’s recent vintages, red and white, are all bottled in classic Bordeaux bottles.
Blanc de Noirs of Cabernet Sauvignon
Besides several Bordeaux blends and a white made from ‘Italian Riesling’, the Chinese chateau also produces a rather unique ‘Blanc de Noirs’ Cabernet Sauvignon using ‘free run juice’ from crushed grapes.
French oak barriques which were ‘made in China’
A third of the oak barrels used in Chateau Changyu Moser XV were made in Changyu's own cooperage in Shandong province using imported French wood, said FAN Xi, chief engineer (winemaker) and deputy general manager of Chateau Changyu Moser XV.
By doing so, the chateau saves a significant amount of money, while maintaining the ‘authentic flavour profiles’ of French oak, said Fan.
Initial research shows that the differences in flavour profiles between Chinese-made and French-made barrels are minimal, added Fan – although some French cooperages may not agree.
After more experiments and trials, the chateau intends to gradually use the ‘made in China’ French barriques as substitutes to French oak barrels, which are far more costly to source and import.
The 2017 vintage of Chateau Changyu Moser XV
After an exceptionally hot 2016, the 2017 vintage saw another hot summer, with temperatures hitting 40°C (and surface temperature up to 60°C) before veraison, said Moser.
Soon after the veraison, the temperature fell and allowed a longer ripening period and a ‘fresher, more fragrant, more full-bodied’ vintage, said Fan.
The alcohol levels in 2017 wines are expected to drop by 1% versus 2016 to around 13%-14% abv.
In the upcoming Decanter London Fine Wine Encounter on November 11th, Lenz Moser will be hosting the first ever discovery theatre session on Chinese wines from Ningxia to European wine lovers.
(Tickets for this particular session have been fully sold out)
Editing by Chris Mercer
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