Famous for its buying power in the wine industry, China’s love for fine wines has made the news with its astronomical figures of wine consumption. However, the tides are turning -- the news and hype now follow China’s wine producers instead of their consumers. In fact, China is one of the fastest growing producers of wine and it is now the seventh largest wine producing country in the world!
Why should you care about these developments? The evidence is stacking up that China’s wine industry is set to be the next big thing in wine, with statistics saying that China will become the second largest wine producer in the world, surpassing France, if the rate of vine planting in China continues.
Today there are around 450 wineries in China that produce 1.2 billion litres of wine each year. In comparison France, the top wine producing country, produces 4.2 billion litres per year.
So read on to learn about this new wine producing country.
Firstly, some background information. China already leads the world in red wine consumption and it has the largest red wine market in the world. Experts believe that red wine is more popular than white in China because the Chinese perceive red wine as having more health benefits and because Chinese culture particularly values the colour red.
Similarly, most wines produced locally in China are red and made from international red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as one locally popular grape, Cabernet Gernischt, but they also produce Chardonnay and Riesling for white wine production.
Now that we know about the main grape varietals produced, let's explore Chinese wine regions!
A map of Chinese wine regions
Yantai, located in the Shandong region, is the largest producing region in China and contains over 140 wineries that produce 40% of Chinese wine.
China’s oldest and largest winery, Changyu Pioneer Wine, is also located in Yantai.
Because of its warm temperate continental monsoon climate, it’s the only region in Northern China that is warm enough to not have to bury its vines in the winter.
Ningxia is the most famous Chinese wine-producing region because it produces high quality wine that is similar to Bordeaux blends. It is located in the northwest part of China.
Around 30,000 hectares of land in Ningxia is predominantly planted with red varieties such as Cabernet Gernischt, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Due to the cold climate, vines have to be laboriously buried every autumn to protect them from freezing.
In December 2011 in Beijing there was a competition tagged "Bordeaux against Ningxia" in which experts from China and France tasted five wines from each region. In an upset, Ningxia was the clear winner with four out of five of the top wines.
Recently Ningxia has also attracted foreign winemakers to go practice their craft and compete in the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge.
Hebei is a province on the east coast of China and it surrounds the capital city of Beijing.
Viticulture in Hebei is split between two regions in particular: the hilly terroir of Huailai - home of the famous China Great Wall Wine Company, and the coastal city of Changli nicknamed "China’s Bordeaux region".
The Hebei wine industry mainly focus on making Cabernet Sauvignon but there are some smaller plantings of Chardonnay, Merlot and Marselan.
Xinjiang located in the northwest of China, is known as one of the biggest sources of table grapes and wine grapes in China.
However its modern wine industry started off comparatively slowly because its remote location results in high transportation costs.
Shanxi borders east Hebei and is made up mainly of a plateau that is partially bounded by mountain ranges.
It has a typical continental climate with four distinct seasons, low humidity, high intensity sunlight, and a large diurnal temperature difference.
Grapes planted in Shanxi include Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is the most southwestern province of China. The vineyards in Yunnan are all small and dispersed due to the mountainous terrain.
The grapes are virtually all Cabernet and Merlot and with a small amount of Chardonnay. In the last few years, Moët Hennessy has invested in the northwestern part of Yunnan, Shangri-La, which has an average altitude of 2,500m, to grow grapes organically for quality red wines.
Interested in trying Asian wine? Read our article Why You Should Try Asian Wines Today
If you want more information about Chinese wineries from Asian Wine Review, download the free 2018 Asian Wine Review, which contains professional reviews of many Chinese wineries.