Monday, December 26, 2011

Chinese Wines Win Blind Tasting

It appears that another wine friendly locale has been identified.  Ningxia is beyond the wall and somewhat emote for anything but the conditions sound similar to BC’s Okanagan in particular.  It is always pleasant to cheer on another success in the wine industry.  While some may regret the expansion of the industry, the truth is simply that there are few locales world wide that produce seriously good wine.  Step away from those and the problems quickly mount.

With the global economy nicely optimizing it is more than fair to say that few new prime locales remain to be discovered at all.  The obvious temperate regions were tackled quite early and we are now picking off the natural refugia type locales.  The Okanagan is a great example of just that.

This development will certainly help wine go mainstream in China and create a powerful lobby internal to China that will protect quality for all.

Chinese wines beat Bordeaux in blind tasting

by Staff Writers

Beijing (AFP) Dec 14, 2011

A remote region of northern China that began growing grapes for fine wine just a decade ago has beaten the centuries-old French wine-producing region of Bordeaux in a blind tasting held in Beijing.

A group of wine experts -- five French and five Chinese -- ranked the bottles from the remote and sparsely populated Ningxia region above those from Bordeaux at the tasting, held on Wednesday in Beijing.

The jury sampled five wines from each region, selecting a cabernet sauvignon from the Grace Vineyard in Ningxia as the top-scoring bottle -- a shock result echoing a 1976 contest that saw the classics humbled by New World wines.

Wines from Ningxia took the four top slots in the contest and a 2009 Medoc from the Lafite vineyard in Bordeaux was the highest-scoring French wine, in fifth place.

All the wines in the contest were produced in 2008 or 2009, and all were priced between 200 and 400 yuan ($30-$60) in China -- putting the Bordeaux at a disadvantage because China levies a punishing 48 percentimport tax on wine.

Nonetheless, Bordeaux expert Nathalie Sibille said the Chinese wines had "performed very, very well", adding, "this region (Ningxia) has enormous potential".

China has enjoyed a huge wine-drinking boom in recent years and is now Bordeaux's largest export client. Analysts have predicted it will overtake the United States to become the largest wine-consuming nation within 20 years.

Most of the wine made there is mass-produced and of low quality, but experts say there are now some good Chinese wines being produced -- notably from Ningxia.

Moet Hennessy, the wine and spirits arm of France's LVMH luxury group, said this year it was planting its first Chinese vineyard in Ningxia to produce sparkling wine.

And a Ningxia vintage was named best Bordeaux-style wine over 10 pounds ($15) at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London this year -- prompting Wednesday's event.

The tasting came 35 years after British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organised a blind tasting that pitted some of France's finest wines against lesser-known names from California.

The American bottles came out on top, shocking the wine establishment, which had always considered Old World vintages to be superior.

"Wine is not a new thing in China, but we are at the very start of China's fine wine story," said the organiser of Wednesday's event, Jim Boyce, who runs the China wine blog

"The very good ones are mostly being made in Ningxia. For me, the link is that a lot of the winemakers there have been trained in Bordeaux."

For judge Fiona Sun, editor of the Chinese edition of a French wine magazine, the results of the contest mean that "people should change their minds about Chinese wine".

Ningxia Travel Guide
'Ning' is the colloquial term for the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Find it on the map in northwest China and into the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. It is bordered by Gansu to the south, Shaanxi to the east, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the north, and is one of the five ethnic minority autonomous regions in China. Ningxia covers a total area of 66,000 square kilometers (about 25,484 square miles) and has a population of 5.62 million; one third of who are Hui minority people. It has a temperate continental climate of long, cold winters and short, hot summers with the temperature being lowest in January, averaging from -10C to -7C and highest in July, averaging from 17C to 24C. Annual rainfall averages from 190 - 700 millimeters.

Ningxia, a region as culturally rich as the entire area south of the Yangtze River, continues to be admired for its resplendent cultural heritage garnered from the long river of history. During the time of the Tang and Han Dynasties (206 BC - 907 AD) Ningxia was the main place for trade and transportation between the eastern and western regions of ancient China. Ruins of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty can be found in east Ningxia.

A unique landscape, unique local customs and habits, and ancient history, all add up to make Ningxia an interesting tourist area for those wishing to discover a rich and diverse region.

Yinchuan City (also called 'Phoenix City') is the capital of the region situated in the remote northwest of China. The 1000-year-old city is a famous cultural city beyond the Great Wall. The old sector of Yinchuan City to the west is green and peaceful, and contains all the places of interest. It includes the 1500-year-oldHaibao Pagoda; the famous Buddhist architecture from the West Xia Kingdom Chengtiansi Pagoda; and theWest Xia Imperial Tombs
 known as the 'Pyramids of China'. One can also find there the mystic Helan Mountain Cliff Painting, created by the ancient nomads who dwelled in the regions of the Helan Mountains in northwest Ningxia. They used a bold and descriptive chiseling and drawing technique, to which they added dazzling colors, to depict the history of a splendid Chinese civilization.

Liupan Mountain is located in south Ningxia. This is an area famous for its picturesque scenery and it certainly lives up to its reputation as the 'green islet'.

Sand Lake Scenic Resort
 is the national tourist trump card for those looking for a place with a lake, sand dunes, reeds, birds and fish. During the May-September period, the lake becomes a veritable paradise for a dozen or so varieties of precious bird species, such as swans, white and grey cranes, black storks, and wild geese.

Shapotou on the southern rim of the Tengger Desert: There one will find the Desert Research Centre, established in 1956 to find ways of preventing the sands from encroaching onto the railways, and one of China's four singing sand dunes. Sliding down the sand dune gives one the ethereal feeling of descending from the sky. The peculiar geological structure of the place causes the sand to emit a resonance that reverberates like the tolling of a huge bell or the beating of a big drum. Limpid water flows gently in a knee-deep stream at the foot of the dune.

Ningxia is the home of Chinese Muslems. When you go, please be respectful of the unique local customs and habits of the Hui people.

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