Its vineyard acreage ranks second worldwide, yet it is also one of the world’s youngest wine regions. In the early 1980s, China produced exclusively table grapes.
Thirty-five years later, its area under vine, spread over more than 800,000 hectares, competes with France, Spain and Italy. Between 2004 and 2014, the Middle Kingdom’s vineyard acreage rose from 4% to 11% of the global area under vine. Vineyards are distributed over approximately ten regions throughout the country, from south-west to north-east. Some are arid, like the province of Ningxia.
Grown a few kilometres from the Gobi desert, the vines enjoy optimal sunshine and cool nights. Other regions are freezing cold, such as the Toghua region on the border with North Korea.
In Xinjiang province, along the north-western borders of the country, the mountains overlook the desert plains. With its temperate climate and fertile soils, it is one of Chinese winegrowers’ prime regions with nearly 100,000 hectares of vines. Although the international grape varieties, spearheaded by Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Grenache, have acclimatised to the many terroirs in China, typical local varieties such as Dragon's Eye, Vamurensis, Bei Hong and Bei Me are also grown. Irrespective of their native regions, most of the grapes are destined to produce wines for the Chinese market.
Eleven million hectolitres are produced each year in wineries across the country, making China one of the world’s top ten producers. Its new-found status has attracted major European wine groups: since 2012, Moët-Hennessy has been farming around thirty hectares in the Mile wine region, in the foothills of Tibet, which are the birthplace of red wines bound for the tables of Beijing.
By Alexandra reveillon