China looks north to sate its ice wine demand

Heilongjiang, the northernmost province along China’s rust belt, has been tipped to become China’s high altitude ice wine production base, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has announced.

ice wine vineyards in Heilongjiang, a rust-belt province bordering Russia.

The country is already the biggest export market for Canada’s ice wine, with over US$6.5 million worth of ice wine (157,879 litres) exported in 2016, according to Canadian Vintners Association. And now it’s rallying domestic resources to increase its own ice wine production in northern China to meet consumer’s growing demand for the sweet wine.

Bordering Russia, the rust-belt province’s main ice wine production region is located in Dongning city, with about 5,000 mu (333 ha) of vineyards. The city is home to five local wineries and produces about 300 tonnes of wines annually including ice wine, red and white wines, according to local Chinese media reports.

The main variety planted in the region used for icewine production is Vidal, from which producers such as Chateau Fenhe International Winery are making their wines.

The central government has invested about RMB 4 million in the province’s wine industry, and set up one vine nursery. The ministry is also pushing for a geographic recognition for the province’s ice wine production region, which only Hengren in neighbouring Liaoning province has enjoyed so far.

According to Chinese regulations, ice wine must be made from grapes naturally frozen on vines, and no chaptalisation is allowed. Alcohol levels in ice wine must be between 9% and 14% abv, and sugar levels must be above 125 grams per litre.

Hengren however imposes a higher sugar level rule of at least 150 grams per litre.

In addition to Heilongjiang, China has six other major icewine producing regions, namely in Liaoning province in northern China – the biggest ice wine production region in the country – Yunnan province in southwestern China, Xinjiang and Gansu in northwestern China, Jilin in northern China, and Hutai in Shaanxi province.

Liaoning province’s Hengren is so far the country’s biggest ice wine producing region in terms of volume. Having started its ice wine production in 2001, Liaoning is capable of producing 1,400 tonnes of ice wine a year.

China’s biggest winery, Changyu Pioneers, makes an ice wine from the province called ‘Golden Valley’ using Vidal.

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