Ningxia expands international winemakers competition

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Ningxia has launched its second international winemaking competition with significantly increased number of participants. With more local wineries involved, this young region is set to absorb more hands-on know-hows from its international peers.

Image: David Tyney (right), Champion of the first Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, with Chinese winemaker

Launched by the wine authorities of Ningxia Helan Mountain East, the second edition of Ningxia Winemakers Challenge will see 48 winemakers from 18 countries, including Argentina, Australia, South Africa and Italy, compete for a total cash prize of CNY700,000 (USD100,000).

As one of China’s best-known fine wine regions, Ningxia has been making efforts to meet the international winemaking norm by launching a classification system and region conservation regulations.

‘For the second edition of the competition, we’re trying to send a winemaker to every winery in the region, and really enhance the region-wide communication of techniques,’ said LI Wenchao of Ningxia’s wine authority, who is in charge of the organisation of the competition.

This year is different from the first as the 48 participants have been paired with local wineries ‘via a lottery system’, rather than being placed in one winery, said Jim Boyce, consultant to the competition and founder of wine blog Grape Wall of China.

‘These winemakers will directly influence the 2015 harvest,’ LI told DecanterChina.com, ‘so the 2015 vintage from Ningxia is worth looking forward to.’

The inaugural edition of Ningxia Winemakers Challenge in 2012 was initiated by Cao Kailong, deputy director of the managing office to the Helan Mountain East region, which finally saw 7 participants out of 50 applicants, said Boyce.

‘This kind of competition efficiently brings international winemaking techniques into Ningxia,’ said David Tyney of New Zealand winery Cirro, who was also the champion to the first Ningxia Winemakers Challenge. Tyney was later hired as a consultant to Yuhuang Chateau, the Ningxia winery where he worked during the two-year competition.

However, ‘China has its unique culture,’ Tyney told Decanterchina.com, ‘the consultant can make suggestions; but whether to take it or not depends on the owner and the chief winemaker.’

Meanwhile, an unnamed trade source commented to DecanterChina.com that the local government should also pay more attention to its local talents.

The results of the second Ningxia Winemakers Challenge will be released in September, 2017.

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