The Chinese have been making wine since the days of the Silk Road and they have a rich, yet little known wine culture. For wine writers and wine lovers like me, it is time to start to consider Chinese wine in a new light.
China is a serious player in the wine industry now, not just in terms of consumption but also in terms of production. It is clear that the quality of Chinese wine has improved tremendously over the last decade. I also suspect that there are still many poor quality wines being made in bulk, but this is difficult to proove, because the bast majority of wines never leaves the country.
China’s first bottle of dry red, dry white, and sparkling wine were all created by GREATWALL. Founded in 1983, GreatWall is a subsidiary of state-owned COFCO Group (one of the greatest fortunes in China). Its main office is situated at the foot of the Great Wall of China, next to the Guanting Lake.
Greatwall has provided a solid foundation for the formalization and standardization of Chinese wine industry, it uses modern wine making equipment that is imported from France, Germany, and Italy. The company markets its products in 20 countries or regions, such as USA, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and domestically in 29 provinces.
The company has 74.8 hectares of vineyards, mostly in Shandong province (40 ° north latitude, one of the most sought-after terroirs in China, same latitude as Bordeaux). More than ten different varieties of grapes are grown there. It uses 1,375 twenty-ton storage vessels with a total capacity of approximately 30,000 tons. This company is now considered the China’s largest wine producer.
The French grape variety Marselan (created in 1961, as a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) could be the Chinese wine’s signature. It is particularly praised by its resistance to disease, lower vigour than Cabernet Sauvignon in summer and its relatively good yield potential.
Between 133 and 200 hectares of Marselan have been planted in China to date, according to estimates. Only France has more of the variety planted. Several top Chinese wineries have already used Marselan, including Grace Vineyard in Shanxi and the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite-Rothschild) vineyard in Shandong province.
Cabernet Sauvignon is currently the dominant grape in many emerging Chinese vineyard regions, such as Ningxia. But there is a growing search for the country’s wine identity among producers and consultants.
The Great Wall Marselan 2018
Vibrant purple in colour, with a fresh and aromatic aromas of ripe cherry, tobacco, a minty character and spicy finish. Well balanced, silky tannins and medium acidity. Ideal for dinner aperitifs or meat dishes.
The growth of high value agri-food trade and origin-based marketing strategies has triggered a vigorous debate over the need to protect Geographical Indications (GIs). While domestic protection is a first step, international recognition is crucial for export products. The EU has finally recognised 4 PGIs for wine produced in China.
Helan Mountain East Region PGI – located in the Ningxia province. Dry white wines and dry red wines can be produced under this appellation.
Huanren Icewine PGI – produced in the Lianong Province from 100% Vidal grape variety.
Yantai PGI – located in the ShandongProvince and dedicated to the production of dry white, rosé and red wines.
Shacheng PGI – located in the Hebei Province is dedicated to the production of dry white, rosé and red wines.
China have been making great strides with their quality wine production in recent years and it is great to see that being recognised.
I look forward to trying these at some point.