Chinese New Year: China could be the next New World wine region - here's what you need to know

5th Feb 19 | Lifestyle

There's growing interest in Chinese wines. Get up to speed now, says Sam Wylie-Harris.


It’s Chinese New Year – the beginning of the Year of the Pig  – a time for eating, drinking, fireworks and celebrating. But while China is famed for its cuisine, what about its wine?

We might be familiar with drinking rice wine or sake out of tiny, porcelain bowls, but what about swirling a glass of Chinese cabernet sauvignon before tucking into a dish of grilled hoisin beef?

Chinese food is very much established globally, however the same can’t be said of its offerings in a glass – yet, that is. China did have, and is now reviving, an ancient and rich wine culture, this time with an international flavour.

Baskets of grapes in vineyard
(Château Changyu Moser XV/PA)

The Chinese have been producing wine using grapes since the days of the Silk Road and today, according to Janet Z. Wang, author of The Chinese Wine Renaissance, China’s wine market is worth around $18 billion a year. It currently produces more than one billion litres annually, making it one of the largest wine producers and consumers in the world.

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Huge congratulations to @jzwinepeek on her brilliant new book on Chinese Wine – ‘The Chinese Wine Renaissance’ – which launched in #LONDON yesterday. More than 5 years in the making and thoroughly researched wIth fascinating insight into the history and cultural aspects of Chinese wine production and general wine culture and consumption in China 🇨🇳 (great section on the truth behind drinking Lafite with Coke!). @changyu_global is mentioned throughout – ‘a true pioneer and China’s first commercial winery’ @changyumoserxv ‘China’s oldest and largest wine brand in consultation with @lenz_m_moser is making inroads for Chinese wine in the international market’ and of course our #whitecabernet for ‘something unusual and a great conversation starter.’ Happy Friday! #chinesewine #ningxia #ningxiawines #winesofchina

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So why is Chinese wine so little known in the West, until now? To understand more, here’s what to be aware of…

China’s wine culture is tied to its prosperity

“In times of hardship and chaos, winemaking is often prohibited or disrupted, but as the nation prospers, wine and culture flourish. So as China re-emerges from a perilous period in recent history, to become a global super power, winemaking is experiencing a renaissance – this time embracing influences and expertise from around the world,” explains Wang.

“As a result, there’s a boom in demand as well as production, through international joint ventures, private and state-backed enterprises. And now, as vines and know-how gain in maturity, Chinese wines are making inroads in the global arena.”

There are three key wine growing regions

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Questions we are asked #2 Whereabouts are you located in #china ?#changyumoserxv is in Ningxia Autonomous region in North Western China on the fringes of the Gobi desert and the foothills of the Eastern Helan Mountains. See map! The Great Wall of China runs along its North Eastern border. It is situated approximately 1,000 kilometres west of #Beijing, in a remote region that was a formerly a coal mining area. The vines are irrigated by the Yellow River. #ningxia is THE buzzword for winemaking in #China at the moment and we are very much at the forefront of this #excitingtime for #chinesewine . . . #Ningxia #chinesewineregions #vineyards #grapegrowing #vinecultivation #vitisvinifera #wineries #emergingregions #chinesewine #ningxia #bestofchina #ningxiawines #emergingregions #yellowriver #gobi #helanmountains #newlatitudewines #organicviticulture #winewinewine #winefans #winewednesday #wednesdaywine

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Wang suggests opening a bottle from Ningxia, Shandong or Xinjiang provinces: “They are the most prominent wine regions in China and will take you from the land of the ancient Silk Road in the far west of China, to the other end where the Yellow River empties into the East China sea, via some unique terroirs verging the Gobi Desert, and foothills of once impassable mountain ranges.”

China grows a variety of grapes

“While cabernet sauvignon is the most planted grape in China, carménère (known in China as cabernet gernischt) is the most established and marselan (originally a French variety, cabernet sauvignon x grenache) is a rising star,” notes Wang. “For whites, chardonnay and riesling dominate. There are interesting local varieties too, such as longyan (dragon eye).”

The wines are fruity and approachable

“Chinese wines tend to be ‘fruit forward’ and ‘food friendly’ in style,” says Wang, “as vines are generally still quite young and wine is usually enjoyed with food.”

Keen to try some Chinese wines? Here are three to start with…

1. Changyu Noble Dragon Riesling, China (£7, Sainsbury’s)

Changyu Noble Dragon Riesling

Lots of fruity fun with a floral bouquet and a peachy, lemony character to complement sweet-and-sour dishes.

2. Chateau Changyu Moser XV White Cabernet Ningxia 2016, China (£15.95, Slurp)

Chateau Changyu Moser Cabernet Sauvignon white wine
(Château Changyu Moser XV/PA)

A white wine made from red cabernet sauvignon grapes – sounds intriguing doesn’t it? It pairs perfectly with Peking duck and pancakes.

3. Moser Family Cabernet Sauvignon, Ningxia 2013, China (£120, case of 6, in bond, Berry Bros & Rudd)

Moser Family Cabernet Sauvignon, China
(Berry Bros & Rudd/PA)

If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, Berry Bros & Rudd have a case (in bond – meaning it must be purchased by the unmixed case and stored in a bonded warehouse approved by HM Customs & Excise, which Berry Bros & Rudd accommodate) of this cab sav, which they suggest is an Old World style. So if you love a good claret, this could be your go-to Chinese equivalent, to be enjoyed at a later date.

The Chinese Wine Renaissance by Janet Z Wang
(Ebury Press/PA)

The Chinese Wine Renaissance: A Wine Lover’s Companion by Janet Z. Wang, foreword by Oz Clarke, is published by Ebury Press, priced £25. Available now.

© Press Association 2019