Fa­vor­able ter­roir, tough con­di­tions make for unique fla­vors

China Daily European Weekly - - Wine - By LI YOU liyou@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Ningxia’s wine re­gion is mak­ing progress in help­ing wine grow­ers to face the chal­lenges of the lo­cal cli­mate and has re­ceived pos­i­tive re­sults, ac­cord­ing to a for­eign wine­maker vis­it­ing the area.

Ac­cord­ing to Denise Cosentino, an Ital­ian wine­maker and China man­ager of Gil­bert&Gail­lard, the main chal­lenge for viti­cul­ture in Ningxia is the cli­mate, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter when vine­yards need to be buried to pro­tect against freez­ing tem­per­a­tures.

“This op­er­a­tion hap­pens of­ten in a very short time and it can kill some vines, rais­ing the pro­duc­tion costs and then the fi­nal price of the wines. Wa­ter scarcity is also an­other is­sue to cope with in this area of China,” Cosentino said dur­ing her trip in Ningxia.

She ar­rived in China in 2014 to work as a wine lec­turer at the Enol­ogy Col­lege in North­west A&F Univer­sity in Shaanxi prov­ince. She par­tic­i­pated in the In­ter­na­tional Wine­mak­ers Com­pe­ti­tion in 2015, in which she used the grapes planted at the east foothills of the He­lan Moun­tain and tried to make her own wine.

The He­lan Moun­tain’s east­ern foothill is lo­cated be­tween the Yel­low River al­lu­vial plain and the He­lan Moun­tain’s al­lu­vial fan, cov­er­ing a to­tal area of over 200,000 hectares.

The re­gion’s an­nual sun­shine du­ra­tion reaches 2,851 to 3,106 hours, with abun­dant heat. The soil has good per­me­abil­ity and rich min­er­als, which all make it a star re­gion to pro­duce good grapes.

How­ever, the huge di­ur­nal tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tion and lim­ited rain­fall (less than 200 mm per year) are big chal­lenges for viti­cul­ture in Ningxia.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment is putting in sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to help wine grow­ers to face those chal­lenges, en­cour­ag­ing the stan­dard­iza­tion of vine­yards and guid­ing lo­cal winer­ies to in­stall more ef­fi­cient drip ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems to con­trol wa­ter use, Cosentino said.

As for the com­pe­ti­tion in 2015, Cosentino’s aim was to ex­press and en­hance the real na­ture of Ningxia grapes, to see what the fruit of this land can give as wine.

“Hon­estly, the first time I tasted the grapes of my plot, they were pretty un­ripe. It was too early to har­vest them. I came back to sam­ple the grapes a few times un­til I de­cided to pick them,” Cosentino said.

Af­ter tast­ing the grapes, she de­cided to use sim­ple tech­niques such as a cold mac­er­a­tion method to deal with the grapes be­fore fer­men­ta­tion, so as to ex­tract the color and fla­vor from the skin, rather than a post fer­men­ta­tion mac­er­a­tion process.

“The lo­cal gov­ern­ment is re­ally com­mit­ted to mak­ing Ningxia the best wine re­gion of China, and it has al­ready done so,” Cosentino said.

“I am sure that with its great sup­port, Ningxia will ex­cel in its wine pro­duc­tion among the best wine re­gions of the world, if the re­gion can fol­low its own unique style and try to im­pose its pres­ence in the wine world for its typ­i­cal­ity.”

Cao Kai­long, di­rec­tor of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of De­vel­op­ment of the Grape In­dus­try of Ningxia, said that when for­eign wine­mak­ers come to Ningxia, some of them de­scribe the vine­yards in Ningxia as be­ing like a par­adise be­cause the soil on this land is so clean.

“Their com­ing also gave us con­fi­dence and brought more op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion. Cur­rently, there are 30 for­eign coun­tries sell­ing Ningxia’s wine. We will spare no ef­forts to de­velop our wine in­dus­try,” Cao said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Ital­ian wine­maker Denise Cosentino poses with Wu Hongfu, wine­maker with Leiren­shou Win­ery in Ningxia.

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