China is a relatively new wine producing country, with their modern wine production experiencing rapid growth since its emergence in the 1980s. Whilst wine production in China goes back 3000 years, it has only recently been treated as a commercial product. It is now the 6th largest wine consuming country in the world, and the 10th largest producer.
Since China is such a large country, the climatic conditions vary vastly across the wine regions. On the coast, the Shandong wine region has high amounts of rainfall and humidity, and also experiences monsoons, which significantly impacts the taste and character of wine produced. The Shandong region is where China’s first modern winery was born and it continues to produce 40% of the country’s wine. This region sits at a similar latitude to Bordeaux in France, so the two region’s wines do have many similarities. Yantai, located within Shadong, even has similar architecture as Bordeaux, incorporating lavish French-inspired châteaux.
On the other hand, headed inland is the Ningxia wine region, where the Helan Mountains are nestled in the Gobi Desert, which in turn creates very dry growing conditions. This region is home to some of the most critically acclaimed wines in China. The Ninxia wine region specialises in Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Gernischt.
Popular grape varieties:
Cabernet varieties are really popular in Chinese wine production. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Gernischt in particular are among the most popular, as well as other variants like Merlot and Marselan. Cabernet Gernischt, which translates to ‘mixed Cabernet’ in German, arrived in China during the 19th century. This grape is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Another popular variant includes Marselan, which is a red grape originating in Southern France. Marselan is a mix between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, and is medium-bodied, similar to Cabernet. This grape is really well suited to the often humid conditions of coastal wine producing regions like Shandong as it presents an effective resistance to powdery mildew. The Chinese market has a dominating preference for red wines like this, with over 90% of imported wine being of a red variety.
Text time you’re looking for a new wine to drink, try out a unique wine from China!