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South African winemaker wins Ningxia Winemakers Challenge

A South African winemaker has won the top score at the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, after a panel of judges tasted the results of a two-year competition where 48 winemakers from 17 countries competed to make the best Cabernet Sauvignon from China’s leading wine region, Ningxia.

Five Gold medal winners were announced at a ceremony in Beijing last week

Justin Corrans, CEO of South African winery, Mountain Ridge Wines, emerged as the top pick for a panel of judges headed by China Agricultural University professor Ma Huiqin and Andrew Caillard MW. 

Another four Gold medals were handed out to Australian Tony Kalleske, of Kalleske Wines, who paired with Ningxia winery Legacy Peak for the challenge; American Brent Trela of Alert Aesthetics, who paired with Miqin; and to winemaking consultants Slavina Stefanova from Sweden and Sarah Williams from the UK, who paired with Yunmo and Hezun respectively.  

Speaking to dbHK, Corrans said, “It is an incredible competition and unique in the wine world. The Ningxia wine bureau must be credited for having the vision and desire to pull this off. Instead of Ningxia going into the world, it is bringing the wine world’s focus to Ningxia.

“It is great to be recognised for all the hard work over the last two years. It would not have been possible without the support and dedication of my winery Lanxuan and its proprietor Mr Zhang.”

During the competition, each contestant was paired with a winery, received three hectares of grapes in a collective vineyard and made a wine, with most returning multiple times for checkups. 

Organised by the International Federation of Vine and Wine of Helan Mountain’s East Foothill, with support from the Bureau of Grape Industry Development, the competition was launched in 2012 as an initiative to raise viticultural standards in Ningxia, to provide quality vines and promote equipment sharing by small operations.

Each Gold medalist was awarded a cash price of RMB 100,000 (US$15,000), while RMB 20,000 (US$3,000) was the prize for each of the ten Silver medalists.

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