The Top 5 Wine Regions To Visit In China
Are you a “wino-saur” looking for the best wine regions in China? I know, we all got to let loose every now and then.
To visit China for the first time is to immerse yourself in an enchanting world full of exciting possibilities. In this land of enchantment, you will be amazed at what you discover. One of the most underrated aspects of a trip to China is wine tourism.
With more than seven hundred wineries, China is teeming with wineries to visit and there is a wine that will certainly please any oenophile whether you enjoy a glass of bubbly white or a dry Cabernet Sauvignon.
You may be thinking that with over seven hundred wineries, where do I begin my quest for crushed grapes?
Don’t worry if you don’t know where to plan your wine excursion because below I have listed the top five regions in the country where you can have an unforgettable experience.
Wine was not a fixture in Chinese culture until the late 20th century. Although the explosion of wine consumption is a relatively new phenomenon, wine has deep roots in China. In the 1990s, archeologists unearthed clay pots in the Shandong Province containing residue from wine derived from grapes (along with honey and rice). These containers were dated around 2,500 BCE!
Why visit? Shandong plays a similar role in its nation as California does in the United States. It is a beautiful region with an unparalleled climate, making it an agricultural center. Wine appreciation in Shandong goes dates back the sixth century BCE when, as some speculate, Confucius occasionally enjoyed sampling the local wine.
The beauty of the region along with its rich history (and close proximity to Beijing), make it the quintessential wine destination in China. The province can be considered the cradle of the modern wine industry in China because this is where Chang Bishi elected to found his Changyu Wine Production Company in Yantai in 1892. Make sure to visit Changyu while visiting Shandong to get a sense of how the modern wine industry in China was formed and what the state of one of the major producers is today.
2. Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
If you’re planning to visit a region of China specifically for a wine experience, you may be best served to head to the Ningxia Hui Hui. This region is nourished by the Yellow River, which provides irrigation to this dry climate to produce an excellent setting for grape cultivation and appreciation.
As a result, money has poured into the region, making Ningxia (the short name for the region) a popular destination. This is where Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) chose to open Chandon China, the nation’s first sparkling wine house. The region is a microcosm of what makes the modern Chinese wine industry so special.
With Tibetan people scurrying around, tending to the vines that drape over idyllic mountainsides the Yunnan province offers a surreal experience for any visitor.
The climate in the wine growing region of Yunnan is exceptional, drawing comparisons to Bordeaux, which features Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties. But for the feeling of being in Yunnan is a stark contrast to Bordeaux as the vineyards are twenty times higher than the topmost vineyard in Bordeaux.
Many luminaries from the French wine industry have been called by the siren song of Yunnan. Moet Hennessy and Pernod Ricard have already purchased plots in the region, demonstrating the value of the terroir. The profound interest in the region indicates the potential for the area to blossom into the most important wine region in the country.
4. Inner Mongolia
You might be thinking, “Inner Mongolia! That doesn’t sound like a place for a wine excursion.” Amazingly, Inner Mongolia has a deep history of grape cultivation. Inner Mongolia has bitterly cold winters, but during the brief growing season, the weather is conducive to cultivation.
\The arid winters are frigid and without snow, the ground becomes hard and freezes deeply. Necessity has made this area into the premier place to explore techniques for cold weather cultivation and to try out varieties that can withstand the brutalities of this extreme climate. For those who are fascinated with the science behind grape cultivation in cold climates, this region is an ideal location to visit.
There are efforts to make hybrids from the native Vitis amurensis and Vitis vinifera with varying degrees of success. The successful crosses have been given an amusing (if not humble) names such as “Red Wine Grape #1.”
The most famous Vitis vinifera in this region is referred to as Tuo Xian, and is pinkish in color and occurs in large luscious bunches. The grape is used in a sweet white that is combined with flowers from the bushy Osmanthus fragrance to produce a famously fragrant dessert wine. No wine lover’s trip to Inner Mongolia is complete without sampling this local favorite.
5. Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
There are few people who have more influence over wine enthusiasts than Jancis Robinson. More than a decade ago Robinson became fascinated with China’s wine industry on her first visit to the enchanted land.
During an earlier visit to China, she visited the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (often it is simply referred to as Xinjiang) and fell in love. In the words of Jancis Robinson: “What makes the Xinjiang province so unusual is that it is in the mosque and kebab country – not the obvious site for China’s most ambitious new wine development. But this much-disputed part of the world on the politically sensitive pivot of the Soviet Union, China, and India has long been famous for quality grapes.”
Jancis Robinson was impressed by some of the wines in the region. On her blog she wrote, “Lou Lan Cabernet 1999 had been by far the most impressive wine I had tasted on my first brief visit to China in January 2002.” If Jancis Robinson found “impressive” wines on her initial visit, then you know that it is worth a visit for the wine alone. The unique and fascinating cultural experiences you can have there is a delightful bonus.
There are many other interesting regions to visit in China. However, if you are looking to make wine a large part of your trip, all the regions described above will offer a magical way to drink deeply from the history of China, one glass at a time.
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He has written for The Permaculture Research Institute and Uisio among other prominent outlets.
He is the author of Death: An Exploration (2016). For more visit his official website: www.lorenmayshark.com