Yunnan wine ‘has a real sense of place’

Berry Bros & Rudd’s Jasper Morris MW shared his views on Yunnan’s potential as China’s next quality wine producing region.

Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in Yunnan Province

Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in Yunnan Province

Speaking to the drinks business HK, BBR’s Burgundy buyer, Jasper Morris recapped on his visit to Yinchuan in Ningxia 18 months ago to view winery sites operated by the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company, LVMH and Pernod Ricard.

“It was just the start of China’s anti-corruption initiative and the wines were typically around 350RMB – around $HK416 – and there were also a number of cuvées at 1,250RMB (HK$1,485) which one rather suspects were aimed at the gifting end of things.

“I expect these have been clobbered now [due to the anti-austerity drive] because some of the wines were just not worth it. However, some such as Moët Hennessy’s Domaine Chandon sparkler were thoroughly respectable and less than half the price at 138RMB (HK$175). I was quite impressed with what they were doing.”

However, since Jancis Robinson paid a visit to Deqin County in Diqing prefecture, 35km from the Tibetan border to see Moet Hennessey’s new winery that was under construction, “word was getting out that Yunnan might be happening.”

“I’ve always thought,” continued Jasper, “that there’s got to be somewhere in China where the climate, skill and soil all come together and Yunnan sounded fascinating so off I went.”

Altitude sickness aside which was swiftly assuaged by local “herbal infusions and abundant yak milk tea,” Morris felt the trip uncovered Yunnan’s potential to be China’s next prominent wine-producing region, due to similar overall summer temperatures to Bordeaux (though with two thirds the amount of rain) and the skilled winemaking, delivered by Bordelais, Maxence Dulou.

“I have to say, I was impressed. The wine didn’t taste of expensive winemaking with expensive oak treatment and there was a real purity of fruit expression. I felt it did have a sense of place and I think they have found a space to make very good wine.”

However, the site’s remote high altitude location, with Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province a hair-raising mountainous eight-hour drive away presents real logistical nightmares which could well hamper its position to export its wine internationally.

“But there is such a glorious feeling of serenity and such a beautiful set up, in harmony with the surrounding environment that it reinforced my view that if China was to produce consistently high quality wines, this could well be the area. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.”

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