Changyu’s Ningxia estate to become 100% biodynamic
China’s oldest and largest wine producer, Changyu, is in the process of converting its 250-hectate Château Changyu Moser XV estate in Ningxia to biodynamic viticulture.
Speaking to db in London this week, Changyu’s chief winemaker, Lenz Moser, said the company hopes to be certified biodynamic in three years.
“My big aim for Changyu is to convert the estate to being 100% biodynamic. We’re in the early stages of conversion at the moment and want to be fully certified by a European body in three years. If we achieve this, we’ll be the first certified biodynamic wine estate in China.
“I practiced biodynamics in Austria. It brings Mother Nature in sync with the vineyard and keeps the ecosystem in tact. There’s the voodoo and cow shit element, which if you believe in it then it works.
“Biodynamics is all about living with the vineyard on a daily basis and taking care of the land in a much more intense way.”
As for the motivation behind the move, Moser said he’s doing it for ethical reasons. “People say that being biodynamic makes the wines takes better, but I doubt it.
“I’m doing it for ethical reasons the same way you might drive an electric car. If a side effect is that the wine tastes better then brilliant, but that’s not my motivation.
“When it comes to the wine world, I think being organic or biodynamic will be a no brainer in a decade, and practically a requirement of the industry,” he said.
While being biodynamic in wet regions like Champagne can be challenging, Moser revealed that Ningxia’s desert climate works to his advantage.
“It’s easier being biodynamic in a desert climate because there is no rain. Yields are low anyway, so that’s not an issue, and you don’t have to stress the vines too much. Making wine in a desert climate requires a totally different mindset. Even at 1,100m altitude you get raisins in the vineyard in October if you leave the grapes on the vine for too long.
“If you miss your optimum picking date then you end up with Port. Three days makes a huge difference when it comes to ripening here,” he said.
While biodynamics may be easier in Ningxia’s desert climate than in rainy regions, making wine in northwest China isn’t without its challenges.
“It gets as cold as -25° in the winter, so we have to bury the vines for four-and-a-half months so they don’t shut down and get frost damage.
“We own 250 hectares of vines in Ningxia and I’m finding a lot of terroir differences within the area in terms of microclimates and soil types. The main soil type is sandy loam,” said Moser, who welcomes the recent influx of winemakers to the region.
“There are new wineries opening in Ningxia every other month and I welcome the competition as we need to build the Chinese wine category and I can’t do it alone. There were 15 Chinese wineries exhibiting at ProWein this year and I think there will be over 30 next year,” he said.