Ningxia wine producers go beyond Cabernet Sauvignon

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More Ningxia wine producers are selling wines made from varieties beyond Cabernet Sauvignon as they explore the Chinese wine region’s terroir potential.

Image: Helan Qingxue Winery

Silver Heights winery recently launched its first white wine, a 2014 vintage Chardonnay, while Helan Qingxue winery released a Chardonnay as well as a rosé Cabernet Franc under the brand ‘Jia Bei Lan’ to celebrate the winery’s 10th anniversary.

Non-Bordeaux varieties such as Syrah and Marselan are also gaining ground in Ningxia.

It is widely believed that Helan Qingxue winery’s Jia Bei Lan winning the International Trophy for Red Bordeaux Varietal over £10 in the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards helped significantly to put Ningxia on the international wine map.

A considerable amount of investment has since flooded into the region. A majority of the new estates following Jia Bei Lan’s footsteps to produce Bordeaux varietal wines, which further ensured the dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon in the region.

However, compared to more mature international wine regions, Ningxia still needs time to find its most suitable varieties, said trade experts. In recent years, more quality producers have started to explore the commercial potential of other varieties.

‘We wanted to produce white wines for many years,’ said winemaker GAO Yuan of Silver Heights, ‘but it wasn’t until 2014 when we could afford proper cooling equipment to produce white wines.’

The new Silver Heights Chardonnay 2014 has its fruit ‘coming from young vines’ and has been aged in oak barrels for 8 months, Gao Yuan told DecanterChina.com. The winemaker is looking to further enhance the quality of this wine.

Winemaker ZHANG Jing, of Helan Qingxue, told DecanterChina.com, ‘I ran into this plot of 17-year-old Cabernet Franc in 2014, and I’m intrigued to explore the potential of this variety in Ningxia.

‘We made a red wine and a rosé (using theses Cabernet Franc) in 2014. The red is still in the barrel.’

‘2015 is the 10-year anniversary of Jia Bei Lan, and we hope to transform the brand into a more diverse range,’ Zhang told DecanterChina.com.

Producers in Ningxia are also exploring red varieties beyond the traditional quartet of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Gernischt and Merlot. Syrah is one of the upcoming varieties in Ningxia, with Ho-Lan Soul (Ningxia)International Wineries and Lilan Winery both producing a single varietal wine using the variety.

Marselan, a variety widely planted in Huailai Region of China’s Hebei province, has also appeared in Ningxia. Established in 2009, Domaine Pu Shang started to produce Marselan wines from 2013.

‘They (Marselan) are in fact more popular than our Cabernet Sauvignon,’ said the owner YANG Jixin. He added that Marselan will be the key variety for their new plantings in 2016, in addition to a small amount of Malbec.

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