The fast-growing empire of Chinese wine

Despite China’s challenging climatic circumstances and the very few areas suitable for wine production, the country is today the fifth-largest wine-producing nation.

Its wine-growing areas are very far-flung and diverse. In Ningxia, for example, the temperatures drop far below freezing in winter. Therefore, the vines have to be buried in little piles of earth to keep them alive. Other areas, however, have a much milder climate, which makes wine-growing much easier. Yunnan, which is close to the Tibetan border is blessed with a gentle and maritime climate. The aggravated circumstances do not inhibit China’s fast-growing wine production.

Wine culture is a relatively recent phenomenon in China, with the first European grape varieties being planted on Chinese soil in the late nineteenth century. Comparatively, Europe has known wine since Ancient Greece. The wine consumption in China currently revolves around red wine, which is associated with wealth, power and good luck and is ultimately also linked to the colour red and its political symbolism.

Due to thisred wine market boomChina’sprominant wine producersare reaping the benefits of an estimated136% riseover five years, making China not onlythe biggest market for Bordeaux, butthe leading market for red wine.

Even though China is on the fast lane in terms of wine production, big brother France still produces four times the volume of wine that China produces. Besides increasing local wine production, Chinese investors have also made their way to Europe, and France in particular. It has become more and more common for Chinese investors to buy French vineyards. Reversely, French wine companies are opening vineyards and wineries in China, creating thus a reciprocal business relationship.

In terms of quality, Chinese wine is improving: just recently, a Chinese wine has won an award outside China for the first time. Among the most successful ones is Jia Bei Lan, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Gernicht. It is produced in Ningxia province in Northern China.