A note from chief winemaker Michael Fragos about his recent visit to China.
I studied Mandarin Chinese for 5 years through High School and I eagerly looked forward to the day when I would eventually visit China. During a Wine Australia visit of some Chinese wine “movers and shakers” I met Professor Demei Li, who is considered to be one of the main Chinese Winemaking consultants. We struck up an immediate simpatico relationship and he then invited me to spend some time with their winemakers during harvest at the Helan Qingxue Winery in the Ningxia province. Helen Qingxue Winery leapt to prominence last year when they won a prestigious trophy at The Decanter International Wine Awards. Amazingly the Ningxia wine industry was only established in the mid 90’s and to put it into perspective they bury their grape vines in winter to protect them from the snow and the harsh cold conditions.
In late September, after visiting our key Chinese wine markets in Shanghai and Beijing, I headed north west to remote Ningxia. Harvest had already commenced and it was proving to be a challenging harvest as they had an unusually wet summer/spring (average annual rainfall is only 250 mm). Over the 5 days I spent time in both the vineyards and winery and I was extremely impressed with the passion and technical ability of the winemakers. I was able to share our experiences, particularly during the 90’s when Australia was experiencing a period of dizzy growth. The irony with any “young” winemaking country is that the most telling advance in wine quality is when you are able to trust your vineyards/ grapes and from that day on wards you gain the confidence to do less in the winery.
I felt absolutely privileged to visit the winery and the hospitality was amazing. I stayed at the winery with the team plus 20 harvest workers and despite a severe language barrier (my fault…. but year 12 was a long long time ago….) I was still able to marvel at their generosity of spirit and kind hearts.
I look forward to a continuing relationship with our new Chinese friends.