Marl­bor­ough and Ningxia sign deal ... over a glass of wine

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - OLIVER LEWIS

The lead­ing wine-pro­duc­ing ar­eas in New Zealand and China have joined forces and signed a sis­ter­re­gion agree­ment to share train­ing and ex­per­tise.

Marl­bor­ough Mayor John Leggett signed the agree­ment with Ningxia Gov­er­nor Xian Hui dur­ing a visit to the north-cen­tral Chi­nese re­gion last week.

Leggett said the agree­ment would help Marl­bor­ough wine tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies grow their ex­ports to China, and en­cour­age Chi­nese stu­dents to travel to Marl­bor­ough for ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.

Ningxia is the fifth largest wine­grow­ing re­gion in the world, with its vine­yard es­tate grow­ing rapidly from about 3000 hectares in 2005 to about 40,000 hectares this year.

Marl­bor­ough is the largest wine­grow­ing re­gion in New Zealand, mak­ing up around three quar­ters of to­tal pro­duc­tion with a vine­yard es­tate of about 25,000 hectares.

The Ningxia cli­mate was more suited to grow­ing red wine va­ri­eties such as caber­net sau­vi­gnon, so Leggett said it would not be in com­pe­ti­tion with Marl­bor­ough sau­vi­gnon blanc.

‘‘But Marl­bor­ough has ex­per­tise, high-qual­ity pro­cesses and stan­dards, a strong en­vi­ron­men­tal rep­u­ta­tion and ad­vanced oeno­log­i­cal re­search which would all be of in­ter­est to China’s viti­cul­ture sec­tor,’’ he said.

Dur­ing the visit, the del­e­ga­tion vis­ited the Pi­geon Hill win­ery con­struc­tion project where VinWizard, a Marl­bor­ough com­pany, was in­stalling tem­per­a­ture con­trol tech­nol­ogy for the win­ery’s tanks.

‘‘It’s a good ex­am­ple of how the links we have be­gun build­ing with Ningxia can help de­velop new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Marl­bor­ough’s wine­mak­ing in­fra­struc­ture,’’ Leggett said.

The sis­ter-re­gion agree­ment fol­lowed on from a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed dur­ing a visit from a del­e­ga­tion of Ningxia au­thor­i­ties to Marl­bor­ough in April 2016.

Leggett said the Chi­nese re­gion had plans to ex­pand its vine­yard es­tate to 66,000 hectares, some- thing he said could lead to in­creased op­por­tu­ni­ties for Marl­bor­ough com­pa­nies.

‘‘Of course they want to look at what we’re do­ing and see if it’s some­thing they can fur­ther de­velop on,’’ he said.

The agree­ment would also lead to cul­tural ben­e­fits, and Leggett said he hoped to see more Chi­nese stu­dents com­ing to study in Marl­bor­ough.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Marl­bor­ough Mayor John Leggett and Ningxia Gov­er­nor Xian Hui sign a ‘sis­ter-re­gion’ agree­ment.

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