Ningxia presents Grand Reserve 2009

Updated: 2012-04-23 14:19

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

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Ningxia presents Grand Reserve 2009

Wine maker Li Demei introduces the Grand Reserve Jia Bei Lan 2009 in Beijing. Ye Jun / China Daily

The history of wine making in China is brief, but the country has potential of producing good wine. In September 2011, a wine produced by the Ningxia Hui autonomous region's He Lan Qing Xue winery bagged the Red Bordeaux Varietal Over 10 pounds international trophy at Decanter World Wine Awards. It was the first time in the history of the awards that a Chinese wine topped the category.

"Although we were surprised, we kind of expected it," says wine maker Li Demei, a consultant at the winery since it was established in 2005. The winery officially released the Grand Reserve Jia Bei Lan 2009 recently in Beijing.

The Bordeaux-trained Li says local wine makers have the habit of visiting and tasting one another's wines. Many visitors who visited his vineyard have told him the Grand Reserve 2009 was the best they have tasted in Ningxia in that year. Before the Decanter Award, Jia Bei Lan 2009 won gold medals at all wine competitions it participated in the country.

He Lan Qing Xue winery is located at the eastern foot of Helanshan Mountain, west of the Yinchuan plains.

The region is dry and sunny, and there is a sharp temperature difference between day and night. The soil has a lot of grit, allowing good permeability.

Li says one of the differences with grape growing in China is that most areas are humid during summer, which is different from the traditional wine producing regions in Europe.

The humidity means that Chinese wine makers would have to use pesticide or irrigate the grapes, which affect the wine quality.

"But Ningxia doesn't have the problem. It is located in an area with semi-arid climate. Yearly precipitation is less than 200 millimeters. It is dry enough, but there is water from Yellow River, which makes it convenient for irrigation," he explains.

The wine maker also notes Jia Bei Lan 2009 reflects a basic condition in wine production. "If He Lan Qing Xue can make it, then other wineries can make it, too, if they are willing," he says. He Lan Qing Xue literally translates to "snow-capped Helanshan Mountain on a sunny day".

Jia Bei Lan 2009 has traces of caramel, coffee and an obvious flavor of jam. Judges at Decanter World Wine Awards says the wine is "supple, graceful and ripe but not flashy". They also praised its "excellent length and four-square tannins".

The well-balanced wine has an appropriate 13.5 percent alcohol content. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Gernicht.

Appreciative of its taste is Campell Thompson, general manager of The Wine Republic, who announced the company will distribute Grand Reserve Jia Bei Lan 2009. It is the only Chinese wine the company represents.

"I have hoped to represent characteristic Chinese wines like this," he says. "My feeling is that wines from cold climates in China are underestimated."

The Wine Republic is an Australian wine import company, representing more than 50 wineries from seven countries in China. Because of limited production, there are only 5,000 bottles of Jia Bei Lan 2009 with the company. Half of them are for sale at the price of 898 yuan ($142) a bottle.

Decanter judges say Jia Bei Lan 2009 can age for five to six years. But Li believes the wine might be able to age as long as 15 years. He says it would be good to be paired with Ningxia's lamb, which the area is famous for.

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